Police: Washington Woman Abducted for Ransom Is Found Dead

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
November 21, 2016 Updated: November 21, 2016

SPOKANE, Wash.—A 69-year-old woman reportedly abducted for ransom by people she knew in southeastern Washington state was found dead two days after police agreed to pay the money and arrested a suspect.

A driver found the body of Sandra Harris on Sunday in arid scrubland along a road south of the city of Kennewick, off Interstate 82, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said.

It was not immediately clear how the Kennewick woman died, authorities said, but an autopsy was scheduled for later this week to determine the time and cause of death.

Police said there was no danger to the public, because the kidnapping was not random.

“The suspect we have in custody, Theresa Wiltse, was known to Sandra Harris and her husband, Randy Harris,” Kennewick police said in a statement Monday. “The exact nature of how they are known to each other is still a part of this investigation.”

Police have only Wiltse in custody but said they were not ruling out the possibility of additional arrests.

“But we do not have any specific persons that we are looking for,” according to police in this community about 130 miles southwest of Spokane.

Harris was kidnapped Friday from her Kennewick home, police said. The kidnapper used Harris’ cellphone to call the victim’s husband at work and demanded an undisclosed amount of money, they said.

The FBI joined local police in contacting the suspect and negotiating for several hours before agreeing to meet up in rural Franklin County on Friday night to pay the ransom, authorities said.

It is not clear what the ransom drop-off entailed and where the money is now.

Shortly afterward, a SWAT team arrested Wiltse, 49, near the tiny community of Eltopia, halfway between the city of Connell, where Wiltse lives, and Kennewick. She was driving a rental car with California plates.

Wiltse was the only person in the car, so investigators kept trying to find Harris, police said.

Wiltse was booked on suspicion of kidnapping. It was not immediately clear if she had obtained a lawyer.