A double-tragedy occurs… An armed Iraq War veteran suspected of killing a Mount Rainier National Park ranger, Margaret Anderson, managed to evade snowshoe-wearing SWAT teams and dogs on his trail for nearly a day. He couldn’t, however, escape the cold.
A plane searching the remote wilderness for Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, on Monday discovered his body lying partially submerged in an icy, snowy mountain creek with snow banks standing several feet high on either side.
“He was wearing T-shirt, a pair of jeans and one tennis shoe. That was it,” Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Barnes is believed to have fled to the remote park on Sunday to hide after an earlier shooting at a New Year’s house party near Seattle that wounded four, two critically. Authorities suspect he then fatally shot ranger Margaret Anderson.
The killing appears to be related to an early morning shooting in Skyway in which a man and woman were critically injured and two other men wounded during a house party, according to Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff’s Department.
A man fled that house after the 3 a.m. shooting, West said.
The car involved in the national park shooting was registered to a man being sought in the Skyway shooting, 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes. He is described as a “person of interest” in the park shooting, according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill.
Margaret Anderson and her husband, Eric, were living their dream, finally working as U.S. park rangers in the same national park while raising a young family, their relatives said Sunday.
“They had been looking for that for a long time, to be in the same park,” Margaret Anderson’s father, the Rev. Paul Kritsch, said in a telephone interview.
Margaret and Eric Anderson worked at Mount Rainier for about four years after meeting when they both worked as park rangers at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah in the early 2000s.
While on the East Coast, the couple was offered jobs at Mount Rainier, Cynthia Anderson said.
“That is why they decided to go out there,” Anderson said. “It’s beautiful out there.”
Both were “very outdoorsy” and “very religious,” she said, and “thrilled” about their life.
According to police and court documents, the suspected killer, Barnes, had a troubled transition to civilian life, with accusations in a child custody dispute that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his Iraq deployments and was suicidal.
Such a double-tragedy first beginning with a young man who risked his life serving in the military in Iraq, and ending with the tragic death of Margaret. Too many of our military are returning with the memories of the horrors they lived permanently embedded in their minds. Where was Barnes’s country when he needed help? Are our wars really worth the price both the troops and innocent civilians pay? No. We need to bring home our troops from all countries, and should stay OUT of Iran – the next threat of war. Out of respect for Margaret and her family I will not go on a rant about Iran. I will continue that in another post.
My most sincere condolences to Margaret’s family.