An unusual mystery played out over the weekend in south central Washington. Sandra Harris, 69, was abducted from her Kennewick home and held for ransom.
The suspect, Theresa Wiltse, a 49-year-old former prison guard, appeared in Benton County court Monday where bail was set at $1 million.
Wiltse was arrested in connection with kidnapping Harris. Police said Wiltse used Harris’ phone to call Harris’ husband and demanded the money in exchange for his wife’s safe return. Law enforcement negotiated with Harris’ kidnapper for hours Friday, agreeing to pay $250,000 in exchange for her release.
Wiltse showed up to receive the money Friday night and was tailed and arrested by police. A police report says Wiltse confessed to taking part in the abduction.
“We’ve had an opportunity to look at the probable cause affidavit. Sadly, since that time the victim of the kidnapping, Sandra Harris, was found deceased,” prosecutors said Monday during Wiltse’s hearing.
Police said a driver saw a body on the side of Coffin Road, about nine miles south of Kennewick, just before noon Sunday. The body was identified as Harris. Prosecutors said the woman appeared to have been shot, but an autopsy is scheduled for later this week to determine when and how Harris died.
Wiltse lives in the small town of Connell, about 40 miles away from Kennewick. Police say the two women knew each other, but haven’t detailed their relationship. Neighbors in Connell were shocked to hear of the abduction.
“I was surprised to be honest,” one man said. “I always thought my neighborhood was a nice neighborhood.”
While police only have Wiltse in custody, they said they’re not ruling out the possibility of additional arrests, but they do not have any specific suspects they’re looking for.