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Murder/suicide boat reported off Whidbey

A boat carrying a suicidal man and his dead girlfriend was first located off of Whidbey’s Fort Ebey State Park Wednesday morning.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said his department took part in the search for the 36-foot boat, which the Coast Guard ultimately found near Orcas Island. Investigators suspect that 39-year-old Albert Beutler of Bellevue killed his girlfriend, 39-year-old Rhan Rha of Sammamish, and then himself.

Island County Undersheriff Kelly Mauck said Bellevue police contacted Island County at 10:48 a.m. The report indicated that Beutler had texted his friend, claiming to have killed his girlfriend the night before. Beutler also stated he wanted to kill himself. Beutler apparently sent a photo of a 9mm handgun to his friend, Mauck said.

But while Beutler claimed he was on Lake Washington in his text message, Bellevue police used the man’s cell phone signal to track him. The Bellevue police originally reported that the boat was a mile off of Whidbey and headed in a northwest direction.

Mauck said deputies launched the sheriff’s boat out of Keystone to help with the search. He and a reserve deputy joined the effort on WaveRunners.

The Coast Guard called off the search after locating the boat in the San Juan Islands at 1:39 p.m. As the boats closed in on him, Beutler went below deck and shot himself, the Seattle Times reported.

“It would be our case if we had been the ones to get to the boat first,” Brown said. “Whoever finds the boat gets the investigation.”

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