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Man Charged With Decapitating Girlfriend With Samurai Sword — And He’s On The Run

Jacob Gonzales is wanted for the murder of his girlfriend Katherine Cunningham — and has $1 million bounty on his head.

By Noah Hurowitz

A Washington fugitive with a $1 million bounty on his head has been charged with murdering his girlfriend after his DNA turned up on a samurai sword smeared with the victim’s dried blood, according to court documents.

Jacob Gonzales, 33, of Camano Island, Wash., disappeared in February, about two weeks before the day that prospective property buyers found the decapitated body of his girlfriend, Katherine Cunningham, 26, near what police described as a survivalist bunker on the island.

Prosecutors charged Gonzales with the murder of Cunningham after forensic tests matched DNA found on the hilt of the sword to Gonzales and matched blood found on the blade to Cunningham, police said. The sword, which was found in a car ditched near Yreka, Calif., is likely the weapon used to decapitate Cunningham, according to investigators.

The would-be buyer made the grim discovery on March 3 while walking the 10-acre property adjacent to his land with several friends, when they came across the bunker located in a ravine, police said.

While poking around, the man spotted a sleeping bag wrapped in a tarp. One of the men nudged the sleeping bag with his toe, and noticing something heavy inside, pulled back the tarp to reveal the body of Cunningham, whose head was missing from the jaw up, according to an affidavit.

Police on March 12 issued a warrant for Gonzales’ arrest and announced a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest. He was initially charged with various weapons charges after police found two Soviet-era Mosin Nagant rifles, a .22-calibre rifle, and a pump-action shotgun, all of them loaded, inside the bunker, according to court documents.

Detectives also found a loaded 9mm handgun tucked into a man’s hiking boot inside the trailer, according to court documents.

"Based on those results, we amended the charges," Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said in a statement.

The bunker in which police found the weapons consisted of a hole in the ground that led to a larger dugout area reinforced by a wooden structure underground, police said. Gonzales had been storing items on the property for about three years, and he and Cunningham had been living in a trailer on the property for several months, neighbors told police.

Based on a laptop and cell phones found in a search of the property, police believe Gonzales killed Cunningham around February 15 before fleeing in her car — which he later ditched with the sword inside — investigators said. California Highway Patrol found the car on Feb. 19, and police in Washington found out about the discovery of the car on March 15, officials said.

If convicted, Gonzales faces between 20 and 28 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Gonzales has ties to the areas around Merced County and Los Banos in California, and police believe he may be hiding out there, according to the Stanwood Camano News.

Police described Gonzales as standing about 5-feet-eight-inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds, adding that he may have shaved his head and facial hair, and cautioned that he should be considered armed and dangerous.

Officials urged anyone with knowledge of the fugitive’s whereabouts to contact the Island County Sheriff’s Office by calling 360-679-9567 or emailing tips@co.island.wa.us.

[Photo: Island County Sheriff's Office]

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