A Washington man accused of deliberately setting fire to his family’s mobile home over the weekend—leaving four dead—may have planned his deadly crime, prosecutors say.
“Preparations are merely complete. Just need to last another eleven hours before it really begins,” Matthew Wetherington allegedly wrote in a journal just hours before the fire broke out Saturday morning, fully engulfing the mobile home in flames, according to The Seattle Times.
Investigators have yet to positively identify the bodies, but they believe Wetherington’s newlywed wife, Valerie Kambeitz, 34, and her three children, all under the age of 10, likely perished in the fire.
A Clallam County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that there was probable cause to hold Wetherington on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson as the investigation continues.
In addition to the journal found on Wetherington, police say the convicted sex offender also confessed to the crime, telling officers “I love my wife very much. I loved my kids. I don’t understand how I could do something like this,” according to court documents obtained by Seattle station KING.
The fire broke out shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday morning. Three residents at the trailer park spotted a man running from the family’s home after hearing a loud “boom” and seeing flames, according to a probable cause statement obtained by the Seattle Times.
Two of the witnesses identified the man they saw as “Matt.” Wetherington was found by police later that night in a wooded area of a park not far from his home. He had a sleeping bag, tent, and dog and had allegedly spent $800 on camping gear, food and supplies at a Walmart Friday afternoon in preparation for the campout.
Authorities believe a journal found with Wetherington also provides disturbing clues into what may have transpired just before the blaze broke out.
“All my mind keeps asking is ‘why?’ ‘Why’ One of the things that keep replaying in my minds eye is the first thing my wife said ‘What am I doing’ … What am I doing. Indeed, why did I do it? Why, indeed …,” one entry read.
Those who knew the couple described the newlyweds as happy in the months before the deadly blaze.
“She seemed happy,” the victim’s friend Holly Wright told local station KCPQ. “I mean, her babies were her world. Her babies were her everything.”
Kambeitz and Wetherington reportedly got married May 4 and lived together with Kambeitz’s three children—Lilly, 9; Emma, 6; and Jayden, 5—from a previous relationship.
“The hardest part of all this is that he made her feel loved, and those kids feel loved,” Valerie’s sister Brenda Kambeitz told The Seattle Times. “It was like day and night from before for her and the kids. She was so much happier. It makes it so puzzling. I don’t understand.”
But despite her sister’s apparent happiness in the relationship, Brenda Kambeitz said she was worried about Wetherington’s troubled past.
The convicted sex offender had spent time behind bars for child molestation, unlawful imprisonment and burglary with sexual motivation before the pair wed.
“I hate that. I hate that I was right about him. I didn’t trust him,” Brenda Kambeitz said. “My negative feelings came along when I found out about his past. I didn’t agree [with the marriage] even though I didn’t have any signs. He treated them so good, it was just a gut feeling.”
Brenda Kambeitz said she and her sister Ashley drove to the trailer park early Saturday morning after receiving a call from their mother, Deborah Borden, who lived in the same trailer park.
“We went right over to where my mom was, and we saw it was totally engulfed,” she said, adding that her mother suffered a heart attack as she watched her daughter’s home burn.
The Clallam County Coroner is now working in conjunction with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office to positively identify the bodies.
Wetherington is being held on $5 million bail and could formally be charged later this week.
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