A Dec. 5 fire that destroyed Alden's Taxidermy on Palermo Drive off of Littlerock Road has been ruled an arson, and it may have been set to cover up a theft of items there.
That's according to investigators with the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority, who have reported that detectives with the Thurston County Sheriff's Office are now investigating the crime.
Fire investigators determined that "items that should still be present on the scene of the fire are missing and may be part of a theft," Lt. Lanette Dyer, spokeswoman for the fire authority, stated in a news release Thursday.
The fire at Alden's Taxidermy was reported by neighbors just before 4:30 a.m. Dec. 5. It was fully involved by the time firefighters got there. The taxidermy business and a pickup parked next to the building were completely destroyed.
Alden Johnson, owner of the shop at the same location on Palermo Drive for the past 38 years, was in Maui, getting ready to marry his fiancee there when he got word that his shop had burned down.
He said there were thousands of dollars' worth of stuffed game and mounts he was working on at the time of the fire. Johnson's finacee, Dolores Chiechi, said investigators became suspicious after noticing none of the remnants of her fiance's work, such as bones of animals, was found among the ruins of the shop.
Chiechi said she and Johnson are still trying to locate their fire insurance policy.
Johnson said he is upset that he was not able to finish so many jobs for valued clients, and that the work has disappeared. He said he is devastated that his purebred Jack Russell Terrier Chloe was killed in the fire.
"It's just been a living nightmare," he said.
Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Elwin said the sheriff's office is investigating the arson and thefts, but is not ready to name any suspects.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org