EDGEWOOD, Wash. -- Police across Western Washington are searching for four suspects wanted in a fatal home invasion robbery in Pierce County that started with a Craigslist posting. The homeowner was shot and killed, and his wife and sons were assaulted.
Pierce County detectives believe the robbery was committed by the same people involved in a similar crime last weekend in Lake Stevens.
The robbery happened around 9 p.m. Wednesday at 106th Avenue Court East in Edgewood, just north of Puyallup. Police are looking for three men and one woman. Authorities say the four came to the house armed with guns and zip ties with the intent to rob the family.
Investigators say the family was apparently trying to sell a diamond ring on Craigslist. Police say the suspects posed as potential buyers to get into the family's home. Once inside, they shot and killed the 43-year-old father, pistol whipped his 14-year-old son and tied up the mom and the younger son. Police say the younger son managed to get the ties off and called 911 after the attackers fled in a car.
"I brought the boys over here because the one that had been hit really hard in the head," says neighbor Kamille Papini. "He was holding his head [saying] 'Mom, my head hurts."
The home was ransacked and a number of items were stolen. Detectives believe the ring was taken from the home.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner identified the man killed as James Sanders. Relatives of the family are upset and can't believe this happened. The family is extremely close – so close many of them live in the same neighborhood.
Sanders' cousin Ryan Vaughn lives across the street from the family. He says Sanders and his wife lived in their dream home with their two sons. Relatives say the two were soul mates, married for eight years in a blended family.
"He was a great guy, good father, good husband worked really hard," said Vaughn. "We were supposed to leave for a family vacation tomorrow."
Before heading off to a family reunion, the couple posted an ad on Craigslist to sell the diamond ring. According to relatives, a man and a woman came to the house posing as potential buyers. Shortly after, two masked men showed up.
"(Sanders) knew how to handle himself. I have no doubt they did what they did to them, but for God sakes he's already tied up. Take what you want. From everything I heard, he wasn't trying to put up a fight. Just get these guys the hell out of his house," said Vaughn.
Deputies swarmed the home, which is located on a private road, and combed the area for the suspects, but their search came up empty.
Friends were also stunned to hear about the violent tragedy.
"People are sick. I don't know what to say," said one friend. "It is sad and we are praying for them."
Neighbor Robert Papini remembers how his neighbor helped him when his dog died.
"Jim came over helped us and we were burying him and he was sitting there crying with me about my dog," says Papini. "He's just that type of person.
Investigators say they're still working on specific descriptions of the getaway car and suspects. Right now, they are described as three men and a woman, "dark-skinned." The suspects were wearing bandanas so the witnesses said they were not able to get a good look at their faces.
Police also recovered some evidence along Highway 156 heading northbound near 227th Street. Police believe items stolen from the house were thrown out of the car.
"Overnight we found some evidence off of 277th Street and Highway 167. We believe the suspects left here, they went northbound on Highway 167 into King County, and then they took the 277th Street exit, where they threw some evidence out the window, which we have recovered and we know it was taken during the robbery," said Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff's Office.
Detectives said a tip from the public is what police need to solve this case.
A fundraiser will be held at the salon where Sanders' wife works this Sunday, May 2. It will be at the Salong 10 & Day Spa at 1420 Meridian E. Suite #10, in Milton from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A fund has been set up to help the Sanders family. Anyone interested can donate to the "Jim Sanders Memorial Fund" at any Bank of America branch.
KING 5's Elisa Hahn, Drew Mikkelsen and Teresa Yuan contributed to this report.