It was about five months ago that I heard back from Hope Solo. I had messaged her a few times, just wanting to check in and see how she was doing heading into the World Cup in Germany. She was coming back from very serious shoulder surgery and I knew she was determined to get all the way back and be in the goal for Team USA.
But when she called one day the conversation was 10 percent soccer and 90 percent personal. She told me about what she and her family considered an injustice, something that she and her brother had worried over for a decade. It had to do with her dad and a still-open King County murder case, dating back to 2001.
She reminded me about the killing of Bellevue realtor Mike Emert, beaten and stabbed to death in a house he was showing in Woodinville. Another one of the stations in town had done some investigative work on the killing and it was back in the news. And she knew that could mean that she would be in the news too.
I remembered the case and remembered that very early on there was a "person of interest" in the case. That's what law enforcement agencies call a "suspect" these days when they aren't quite sure of who's responsible, where an investigation could lead, and maybe they don't want to give comfort to or scare away other suspects. Or "persons of interest." What I hadn't remembered was that person's name; Jeffrey John Solo. And what I had never put together until we talked that day, was that he was Hope's father. Interestingly, in all out coverage of Hope leading up to and during the Beijing Olympics she never mentioned it. When we did talk about her father, in the course of doing a story about his personal challenges, homelessness and how he and she reconnected and created a strong father-daughter bond when she was in college, she always referred to him as "Tony."
Jeffrey Solo died four years ago but Hope told me she wanted a chance to publicly clear his name, to tell the world that her father wasn't a killer. Friends and family, she said, had never heard from the King County Sheriff's Office about whether her father had been cleared before his death, or was still suspected of being involved.
"He wondered how and why every day of his life and he never ever really made peace with it," Hope said.
Hope Solo has one of the craziest schedules on the face of the planet (and mine isn't exactly a predictable 9 to 5, Monday through Friday either). So it took a while to get together and do an interview about all this. It finally happened outside a Kirkland dance studio where she was practicing for her big debut on a national TV show over on that other channel. As always, she spoke straight from the heart. She spoke eloquently about the pain the suspicion had caused her and her family over the years. With suspicion in the case pointing in a different direction, she wanted to move past all that pain, tie up a loose end that had been bothering her for a decade.
"It took about ten years for his name to be cleared and he wasn't around for his name to finally be cleared. I just wish he could have lived in peace his last years. That's all I wished for," she said. "I'm still waiting for that phone call from the King County Sheriff's Office, just to say, 'We're sorry.
these things happen,'"
That phone call isn't likely to come. The sheriff's spokesperson tells me they now absolutely believe Jeffrey Solo had nothing to do with the Emert killing. But he also shrugged off my question about whether they had notified the family about that, saying Jeffrey Solo had been told before his death that he had been cleared and whether he shared that with his family was his business.
Anyway, it is a story that has been a long time coming and I hope it helps to have it told. I know that it was difficult for Hope to do.