• KIRO 7 Investigates: Home hiring risks

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    KIRKLAND, Wash. - A Kirkland woman was nearly murdered in her home by a man who police say was previously hired as part of a work crew at her house. It turns out the suspect has a serious criminal history.

    Kevin Harper was charged with killing three people in Yakima in 2011, but the case fell apart before it went to trial.

    He was convicted of other crimes and went to prison. When he got out, he went back to work.
    Police say he was hired to work on a remodel in Kirkland.

    On March 17, investigators say he returned to the house and climbed in through an open window. According to charging documents, he robbed the homeowner and tried to get her to go with him to withdraw cash from an ATM. When she refused, police say he stabbed her repeatedly. Detectives think it's likely he thought he had killed the victim when he left. She later told police she pretended to be dead to try to get him to leave.

    Detectives say she crawled to the street to get help and was able to identify her attacker.
    Harper was arrested when he arrived at a plumbing job in Woodinville, according to court documents.

    How did he end up getting a license as a plumber trainee and get a job where he had access to more potential victims?

    KIRO-7 asked Labor and Industries what it takes to get licensed.

    "He was licensed as a plumber trainee which has very very limited qualifications. You have to be 16 years old, you have to pay the amount of money it takes to be a plumber trainee and, if you renew, you have to show you had eight hours of continuing education," said Tim Church with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

    He says as a plumber trainee, Harper was required to work alongside a certified plumber.

    "There are really no criminal background check requirements for being a plumber trainee, a plumber, for being a certified plumber, for that matter, for being a contractor of any kind.

    Church says the requirements are set up by the state Legislature and state law does not require the background checks.

    His advice is for consumers to ask questions before hiring someone to come work inside their home.

    "My recommendation would be, know as much as you can possibly know. Ask questions of the companies you're hiring, not just about how long they've been in business, but what they do when they're hiring employees. Do they do any kind of background check?" Church said. "I think we all have a perfect right to know who is coming into our home and what their background is, and then make the best decision for yourself. Each of us can decide what our levels and limitations are based on that information."

    Some states,  including California, Arizona and Florida, already require background checks for contractors. For Washington to join the list, Church says it is a change the state Legislature would need to decide.
     


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