On a gravel cul-de-sac called Rawlins Road off Frost Road east of Winlock, neighbors of the three family members found dead Tuesday night from apparent gunshot wounds say they were "floored" by the news of violence Wednesday.
The victims are tentatively identified as 18-year-old Devon Walter, 65-year-old Cathy L. Walter and 57-year-old Rodney Walter, the Lewis County Coroner’s Office announced this morning.
The family was found dead in an apparent double murder and suicide, as well as three dogs and a cat also were found deceased at the residence.
The violence occurred in a two-story log-cabin style home with a green metal roof — 314-61 Frost Road — where an American flag waved Wednesday, a tie-dyed blanket remained draped in an upstairs window, and a tractor trailer with “3rd Eye Trucking LLC” painted on the doors remained parked outside.
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“They were the nicest people, really, seriously,” said neighbor Ken Morse, noting he knew the family only by their first names and sometimes chatted with them when he and his wife would walk down the long gravel road to retrieve their mail.
Morse said the teenager would often wave to passers-by from the front porch.
Stacy Brown, a chief deputy with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, said the family’s daughter, who lives in the Tacoma area, discovered the bodies. She is believed to be in her mid-20s. She visited the home and alerted the sheriff’s office at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday after not being able to reach family members by phone since Sunday, Brown said.
The sheriff’s office has not identified which of the deceased was the apparent shooter or what type of gun was used.
Morse said he got to know Devon Walter when he was younger and would often drive the family’s lawnmower up the gravel drive and ask neighbors if he could cut their grass.
“Just a typical kid,” Morse said. “Didn’t see much of him once he became a teenager.”
Morse said there are currently about 19 houses — some vacant and for sale — on Rawlins Road, which begins at Frost Road.
Another neighbor who wished to remain anonymous said he last saw the family about a month ago and was sure they were preparing to leave the house to their son.
He said he believes the family moved into the home about nine or 10 years ago. He added Rodney Walter was a truck driver who was often away.
On Facebook Wednesday night, friends of Devon Walter began posting “R.I.P.” messages to his profile page.
“He was always ready to help me thru (sic) any dilema (sic) I had in my life he gave great advice,” Alexis Sidibe wrote in a message to The Chronicle. “He loved animals and he especially loved his games. He really was a good person and an amazing friend. And I will miss him a lot.”
Sidibe said Devon Walter, whom she had met in a karate class in the fifth grade, had been home schooled his entire life. Sidibe said she last spoke to him about two months ago.
“He always talked about moving up near his sisters,` if I remember right, and we mostly just talked about his job and his achivments (sic) of getting a car and such and he never expressed that anything was wrong and I could usually tell,” Sidibe wrote.
Devon Walter, who appears to have been an aficionado of playing video games online, also posted comments regularly on Facebook. His last post came at 11:31 p.m. Saturday.
“had (sic) a awesome day saw my friend derek played some games chatted with a lot ppl (sic) and it turn out to be very cool relaxing day and still am having fun :-),” he wrote. On Friday he expressed grief for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.
Autopsies of the bodies will occur Friday.
The Washington State Patrol Total Station Team is assisting the sheriff’s office in the investigation.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do with this and we can’t release more information until we have better answers,” Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield said Wednesday.