24 Murders in Tri-Cities Area are Considered Cold Cases

KENNEWICK, WA - A 50-year-old Pasco man gunned down with an assault rifle in the middle of the street. Two 20-year-old girls, one found shot and floating in a pond, the other strangled and buried in a shallow grave at Sacajawea Park. These are just three of the 24 Tri-Cities area murders that remain unsolved, some dating back more than 50 years.

Officers knocked on the door of 13-year-old Anna Pelayo's house back in December of 1997.

"I remember seeing a search out in a field on Road 68. Then I asked around, you know, what's going on, do you need any help and they told me there was a body found out there," said Franklin County Detective Jason Nunez. He was just starting his career; enrolled in the Academy and visiting Pasco for the weekend.

Someone had shot Anna in the head and left her body on the edge of Taylor Flats Road. Almost 20 years later, her family still has hope.

"She's not forgotten. She still has a family that's grieving for her. If somebody knows something, we'd really appreciate them coming forward and saying something because somebody's out there and somebody's got to know something," said Anna's sister, Nikki Cook.

Anna's cold case is just one of eight in Franklin County. There are two others in Kennewick, one in Richland, ten in Pasco and three in Benton County. (A full list of the murders can be found at the bottom of this page.)

"The leads have been exhausted at the time," said Benton County Detective Sergeant Kevin McCary. "Where evidence has been collected and people have been identified, witnesses, victims, suspects, people of interest - but all those leads have come to an end."

"No matter how much you do, or how many people you interview. You still need that extra piece of evidence that's going to turn the case," said Benton County Detective Lee Cantu.

It usually takes a few years for a case to be considered cold as newer cases come up and begin to take precedence. However, the homicide files that are filled with pictures of crime scenes, evidence and diagrams are not getting dusty on the shelves.

"We never give up. We have every homicide case that's ever occurred in the City of Pasco. We revisit them basically on a yearly basis in some form or fashion," said Pasco Police Captain Jim Raymond.

"I can't imagine being a family member. That's why the detectives do what they do. They have the ability and the skills to try to come to a resolution in these cases. To speak for those who can't speak for themselves. To speak for the family, find closure for the family," said McCary.

Any tips or leads that go to law enforcement can be kept anonymous. Detectives say any bit of information someone might remember or recall could be the key to cracking a cold case.

  • 1960: 51-year-old Edna Wright, stabbed 35 times and had a broken neck, found at her Richland home.
  • 1971: 60-year-old Ivah McDonnell, brutally beaten with a blunt object and strangled at her Pasco home.
  • 1972: 64-year-old Viola D'Amico, shot in the chest at her Pasco home, the murder weapon found nearby.
  • 1975: 20-year-old Shannon Varley, found shot and floating in a pond.
  • 1977: 20-year-old Diane Merckx, possibly strangled, found in a shallow grave at Sacajawea Park.
  • 1981: 61-year-old Raymond Varela, a transient found stabbed nine times near the Pasco railroad yards.
  • 1983: 27-year-old Susan Burnham, brutally beaten to death and found near a rest stop in Benton County.
  • 1986: 24-year-old Stanley Peterson, shot and killed in a vehicle along Interstate 82.
  • 1986: 40-year-old Robert McDonald, found beaten and floating in the Columbia River near the Pasco Boat Basin launch.
  • 1987: 29-year-old Edward Davis, shot several times with multiple guns in Pasco.
  • 1987: 21-year-old Tracy Lynn Smith, found fface downnear the Pasco water tower, stabbed 40+ times in the head, back and torso.
  • 1990: 34-year-old Jesus Cardenas, found dead of gunshot wounds in rural Benton County.
  • 1990: 44-year-old David Gonzalez, shot and killed in his Prosser driveway.
  • 1991: 29-year-old Francisco Olalde, found lying on railroad tracks in Pasco, strangled and hung over the side of a train car.
  • 1991: 31-year-old Ernesto Hernandez, beat to death with a cinder block and found in Pasco.
  • 1994: 72-year-old Evelyn Beagle, suffocated after she and her husband were tied up by two robbers. Her husband was able to break free.
  • 1995: Avel Ayala Garcia, shot and killed in rural Franklin County.
  • 1997: 13-year-old Anna Pelayo, found shot in the head on Taylor Flats Road.
  • 1997: 50-year-old Pedro Garcia, found dead of blows to the head in a field of brush. Some talks of it being a serial killer, nothing ever confirmed.
  • 2000: 39-year-old Juan Guzman Zuniga, left apartment to take out garbage and came back badly beaten. Died from internal injuries and officers were unable to get information from him after he was hurt.
  • 2001: 51-year-old Cassandra Ray, found bludgeoned to death in her Kennewick home.
  • 2002: 50-year-old Gregorio Lopez, gunned down on a Pasco street with an assault rifle.
  • 2010: 30-year-old Juan Segoviano-Garcia, shot in the chest and burned, his body was found in a Finley orchard that was on fire.