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August 11, 2016
BELLEVUE, Wash. - The city of Bellevue's oldest cold-case murder has been solved 51 years after it happened, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated detective who decided to take a fresh, new look at the case using tried-and-true investigative techniques.
The solution of the mystery comes years after the suspected murderer in the case died, but police say at least the victim's family now has some closure and certainty about what happened to their loved one.The homicide was discovered on a cold, wet December morning in 1965, says Bellevue police spokesman Seth Tyler.
The body of Loren Sundholm was found in a patch of blackberry bushes along the side of a remote road in then rural Bellevue soon after he had been reported as missing.Bellevue police began investigating and soon identified a primary suspect - a man named Bill Huff.But Huff had an alibi. He told detectives at the time that he had been drinking at a bar in West Seattle with Sundholm and that he had agreed to give him a ride home. Huff claimed that, on the way home, he and Sundholm got into a fight with two other men on the side of the road after a road rage incident, and that Sundholm had gone "missing" afterward.
Officers found the victim in the area where Huff claimed the fight with the two other men had taken place. Detectives at the time suspected that Huff's story was a lie, but there was never enough evidence to charge him with the murder, Tyler said.Detectives continued to look at the case over the years, again attempting to interview Huff and obtain a confession in the 1980s and 1990s without success.Huff died in 2009. In 2014 a Bellevue detective,
Shelby Shearer, decided to take a look at the case with a fresh set of eyes in hopes that he could provide some closure for the victim's family.Detective Shearer pulled the original crime scene photos, and working with the King County Medical Examiner, essentially disproved the story that Huff had provided, Tyler said.
The detective accomplished this by turning up some key pieces of evidence:- The victim was found wearing only socks, and his socks were clean. If the victim had been involved in a fight, his socks would have been muddy as the area where the victim was found was extremely wet and muddy, leading Shearer to believe that the victim was probably dumped at the scene.-
According to autopsy reports and photos, there were scratches on the victim's eyes caused by the blackberries. Working with the King County medical examiner, the detective learned that this could have only occurred if the victim was already deceased when he was placed in the bushes.- Finally, the detective noticed a pair of shoes that were in the back seat of Huff's vehicle, leading him to the conclusion that the shoes likely belonged to the victim, and he was probably killed in Huff's car.Armed with this new evidence, along with interviews of one of Huff's ex-wives, the detective took the case, with this new evidence, to the King County Prosecutor, who concluded that they would have tried Huff for the murder if he was still alive.
This conclusion provided the living family members of Loren Sundholm with the resolution that they had wanted for the past 51 years."It is notable that this case was solved, not with DNA evidence or technology, but with traditional investigative methods, and a diligent detective who took a personal interest in the case," Tyler said.