PORT ANGELES, Wash. — A man accused of killing his wife and her three children in a mobile home fire Saturday in Port Angeles is being held on a $5 million bail.
The suspect, 34-year-old Matthew Wetherington, was identified as a person of interest after four bodies -- presumably those of Valerie Kambeitz and her three children, ages 5, 6, and 9 -- were found in a burned mobile home trailer where he lived. He was arrested Saturday night and booked into Clallam County Jail. The medical examiner has not yet confirmed the identities of the bodies.
He faces four counts of aggravated murder and one count of arson. According to a probable cause affidavit, Wetherington admitted setting the fire that killed his wife and three stepchildren shortly after his arrest. On Monday, the judge found probable cause for the murder counts and ordered him held on a $5 million bail at a preliminary hearing.
Wetherington is due back in court Wednesday for arraignment and to enter pleas to the charges.
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According to Port Angeles police, during questioning after his arrest at a camp site Wetherington was asked why he kept referring to Kambeitz and her children in the past tense.
“I'm speaking of them in the past tense because I presume they are dead,” he told police. “I love my wife very much, I loved my kids. I don't understand how I could do something like this. I deserve to be locked up.”
Wetherington also kept a journal that began before the fire was set, according to the affidavit. “Day one… or is it day three?” one entry read. “Preparations are merely complete. Just need to last another eleven hours before it really begins.” The fire that killed the woman and her three children was set 11 hours later.
Police have not confirmed the identities of the bodies or the exact number but said Valerie Kambeitz, Lilly Kambeitz, Emma Kambeitz and Jayden Kambeitz are all unaccounted for and the sizes of the bodies found in the burned trailer, which went up in flames around 2:30 a.m., indicate children are among the dead.
Wetherington is a Level III sex offender, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ online database.
The fire was reported early Saturday at the Welcome Inn Trailer Park along Highway 101 in Port Angeles. Cellphone video shared with KIRO 7 showed massive flames, which police said spread to a second mobile home and several cars.
A man in the second mobile trailer escaped through a window, according to police.
"Sometime in the wee hours, I was sleeping. I heard a double pop, pop like fireworks,” said neighbor Nita Frantz, who called 911. "I was scared out of my mind because the breeze was blowing towards the east, and I just thought for sure one after another was going to go, like dominoes falling."
State and federal investigators have been called in to help with the investigation.
Cox Media Group