Crime

Vanda Boone remembered as 'One of those bright lights'

A contingent of searchers including Thurston County Sheriff's Office personnel hunts for evidence Tuesday along the Yelm-Tenino Trail near Churchill Road. Searchers were seeking evidence connected to the death of Vanda Boone, 60, of the Yelm area, including a weapon.
A contingent of searchers including Thurston County Sheriff's Office personnel hunts for evidence Tuesday along the Yelm-Tenino Trail near Churchill Road. Searchers were seeking evidence connected to the death of Vanda Boone, 60, of the Yelm area, including a weapon. The Olympian

A homicide victim found in the passenger seat of a 26-year-old Tenino man’s pickup Sunday night has been identified as Vanda Boone, a 60-year-old woman who moved to the Yelm area from New York in March to work as a massage therapist, officials report.

Boone died after having her throat slit, Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said. Blunt force injuries to her head and neck, and asphyxia due to strangulation or suffocation contributed to her death, Warnock said.

Boone worked as a massage therapist at Radiance Herbs and Massage in Olympia.

Karin Olsen, a co-owner of Radiance, broke into tears Tuesday as she talked about Boone.

“Vanda was a massage therapist with Radiance, and she was loved by all of us in the Radiance community.” She was “also appreciated for the amazing body work that she did as a massage therapist, and we will feel her loss deeply.”

Radiance co-owner Andrea Seabert added that Boone had faced some challenges in the past months but displayed “amazing grace and beauty” in confronting them.

“She was one of those bright lights,” Seabert said. “She always had kind words to say and just had the highest integrity.”

Boone’s loss is felt deeply by the entire Radiance community, Seabert added.

Boone leaves behind no surviving family members. According to Warnock, she had a brother who lived in Brazil, but he died about a month ago.

An official with Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon to confirm reports that Boone studied there.

Bernard Keith Howell was pulled over Sunday night near Parkside Elementary School in Tenino with Boone’s body wrapped in a sleeping bag in the passenger seat. He was arrested, but denied having anything to do with Boone’s death.

Howell was being held Tuesday at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder and first-degree theft.

On Tuesday, a large number of Thurston County sheriff’s deputies and other police officers scoured the area of the Yelm-Tenino Trail where they believe Boone was killed.

They used metal detectors in an effort to find the knife or cutting instrument that was used to slit Boone’s throat, said Thurston County sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy. Detectives found a number of knives in Howell’s pickup, but are not sure if they were used in Boone’s homicide, Mealy said.

When Howell was pulled over Sunday night, he said he wanted to bury the body to save the family the cost of a funeral. He had brought “plastic bags, a sleeping bag, zip ties, bungee-type elastic cords and a 10-pound weight with him,” court papers state.

During an interview with detectives after his arrest, Howell continued to state that he had found Boone’s dead body and didn’t have anything to do with her death. But he also told detectives he had sex with the body.

A Thurston County sheriff’s deputy pulled Howell over Sunday night after a man flagged him down and said that another man had asked him for help with disposing of a body. The witness then told the deputy that the pickup belonging to the man who wanted help with the body was driving by at that moment.

Mealy said Tuesday that detectives think Boone was either walking or riding a bike on the Yelm-Tenino Trail on Sunday afternoon when she was attacked and killed.

Detectives have not been able to find any evidence that Howell and Boone knew each other, Mealy said.

Prosecutors are seeking an order to send Howell to Western State Hospital for a mental health evaluation. Howell has a court hearing tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

Mealy had no updates Tuesday on whether detectives had any evidence that Boone’s homicide was in some way related to the disappearance of Nancy Moyer. Moyer, a 36-year-old mother of two, disappeared from her Tenino home in March 2009 and has never been found.

Howell operated a meat-delivery business in Tenino, and used his pickup for his job.

According to court records, Howell has told jail officials he hears voices, and that he wants to be left alone. Howell’s father, also named Bernard Keith Howell, has said that he fears his son has “a screw loose,” and may have gotten involved with methamphetamine.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 jpawloski@thoelympian.com

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