SEABECK — A clearer picture of the events of Jan. 27 at the Careaga home is emerging, just as more questions remain.
Investigators found the bodies of Christale Lynn Careaga, 37, Johnathon F. Higgins, 16, and Hunter E. Schaap, 16, in separate rooms of the Careaga home at 13417 Tenino Drive in Seabeck, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Detective Lissa Gundrum said Feb. 3.
The home is situated on a large, forested lot. There was no evidence of forced entry and no evidence of a struggle. “Not that we can tell,” Gundrum said. However, the scene was altered by the house fire that investigators arrived upon.
Someone called 911 at 11:28 p.m. that night to report violence at the home. The caller had not been identified as of afternoon Feb. 3. “It could have been someone involved, or it could have been one of the victims,” Gundrum said.
At 9 p.m., about 2.5 hours before the violence at his home, John Careaga shopped at the Camp Union Store less than three miles away — a five-minute drive on Tenino Drive to Gold Creek Road, north along homes fronting Tehuya Lake to Lake Tahuyeh Road, then a left on Northwest Holly Road to the store. The store’s video surveillance tape documented Careaga’s visit there.
Did he go home or was he intercepted? “We don’t have that information, and unfortunately there’s nobody to ask,” Gundrum said. Investigators believe he was killed elsewhere. His body was found Jan. 29 in his burned truck at a tree farm in Mason County.
“We do feel that John was the focus because he was killed at a separate location than his family,” Gundrum said. “We don’t feel this was random.”
The Careagas had an authorized medical marijuana grow at their home, and investigators found some $60,000 in a safe at the home. The Careagas owned two businesses: a taqueria and a coffee shop on Kitsap Way. “… Detectives did locate some cash and secured it for safekeeping from the burned-out residence,” the sheriff’s department reported on its Facebook page. “This family were business owners and it is not unusual for a business owner to have cash on hand.”
Do investigators believe the marijuana and cash were factors in the murders?
“No,” Gundrum said. “I should say, we don’t know if that was a motive, but that’s not where our focus is.”
At this point, investigators are not releasing the manner of death — that is, how the four died. “There were several shell casings recovered from the outside of the residence,” the sheriff’s department reported. “At this point in the investigation, we are aware that there was some target shooting at the residence, which was common.”
And so the investigation continues. The Sheriff’s Department is being assisted by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.
Investigators ask that anyone with information about these murders call Gundrum at 360-337-5669. Callers can remain anonymous.
Investigators are also seeking any video of the roadway, between 7 p.m. Jan. 27 and 2 p.m. Jan. 29, on Holly Road, Lake Tahuyeh Road, Sandhill Road and Seabeck-Holly Road or the general area.
Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound is offering a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects. Call 1-800-222-TIPS or go to www.crimestoppers.com. Again, callers can remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, relatives and friends will gather for a memorial service at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at GracePoint Church in Bremerton. The memorial service is open to the public.
Investigators described the Careagas as a blended family.
“Johnathon is Christale’s son from a previous marriage,” Gundrum said. “Hunter is John [Careaga’s] former stepson, but they were very close. Hunter always considered John as a father figure, and John raised him like a son.”