13 years after Karen Bodine was found slain, her family is still seeking justice

Original Article: https://www.theolympian.com/news/local/crime/article237646739.html

BY SARA GENTZLER

DECEMBER 08, 2019 06:00 AM, UPDATED DECEMBER 16, 2019 05:57 PM



The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office has 30 or so unsolved cold cases that are homicides, found remains, or missing people who are suspected homicide victims, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady. That doesn’t mean detectives aren’t actively looking into the cases, Brady said, but the investigations have “hit a wall, of sorts.”

That’s 30 or so people with families and friends who haven’t seen justice for a loved one.

Among those cases is the slaying of Karen Bodine, who was a mother of three and 37 years old when she was killed.

Bodine’s body was found after daybreak on a January day in 2007, left on the shoulder of Littlerock Road Southwest near the entrance to an old gravel quarry. The cause of death was strangulation, and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office began investigating her death as a homicide.

Her oldest child, Karlee, was a senior in high school at the time. Daughter Taylor Bodine was a freshman, and son Tanner was in sixth grade.

It’s been almost 13 years, and no arrests have been made in the case. But the Bodine family hasn’t given up their search for justice and what might resemble closure. Recently, that search picked up momentum: There’s a renewed sense of hope after a true-crime festival in Seattle brought new minds and technology to the county’s investigation.


‘SHE WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT’

“Some people often misuse and don’t really understand the difference between justice and closure,” Taylor Bodine told The Olympian. She sees justice, of course, as someone being held accountable for what happened.

But even without the case being solved, Taylor Bodine said, what would give her the most closure — though she doesn’t think it’s possible to fully get “closure” — is people not focusing so much on the negative aspects of her mother’s life.

“In a lot of the pictures, they paint her as a victim,” Karlee Bodine said in a group interview with her siblings and The Olympian. “And yes, absolutely, she is a victim. She’s a murder victim. But, at the same time, she is so much more than that. She’s a mother, she’s a friend, she’s a daughter, she’s a coworker. She’s a million other things. And then victim, at the very bottom.”

Loved ones remember Karen Bodine as a woman who “never met a stranger,” “lit up a room,” had impeccable fashion sense, and would do anything to spend time with her kids. Taylor Bodine said classmates of her mother, who went to Tumwater High School, have reached out to her to reiterate just how beautiful her mother was, “inside and out.”

“Yes, she was gorgeous, drop-dead gorgeous, physically,” Karlee said. “But a lot of times when someone’s pretty on the outside that means they’re not, necessarily, on the inside. It’s completely opposite with her.”

But those weren’t the facts that surfaced in early reports of her murder. The Olympian reported that Karen Bodine had been the petitioner and the subject of domestic violence protection orders in Thurston County. She had a history of arrests, though was never convicted of a felony. And she had tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana while under supervision of the state Department of Corrections.

Karlee Bodine, who’s now 31 and manages a fast food restaurant on Olympia’s west side, said a focus on pieces of her mother’s life eclipsed a more complete picture of the woman she and others knew.

“She did have drug and alcohol problems, but that was on and off throughout her life,” Karlee Bodine told The Olympian. “And, for the most part, it was more off than on. But people focused on the ‘on.’” Karen Bodine’s children lived with their grandparents from a very young age, Taylor told The Olympian, but “not for lack of effort” on their mother’s part.

Sharron Bodine, Karen’s mother and the kids’ grandmother, told The Olympian that Karen and the kids had been living with them by “mutual agreement.” Karen eventually moved out, but remained very much involved in the kids’ lives. She’d find a way to show up to the kids’ events, and often stopped by their grandparents’ house — and never without a gift for her kids in hand.

When Karen got a job in the kids’ school lunchroom, Taylor said her mom would sneak her a couple extra chicken nuggets and come over to say hi.

“Everything she did focused around being closer to us and with us as often as possible,” said Taylor, now 28 and a model and preschool teacher in Seattle.

Taylor also describes her mother as her makeup and fashion “icon” growing up. She remembers digging through her mom’s purse and pulling out bright pink lip gloss.

Tanner, who’s now 25 and maintains commercial properties in downtown Seattle, sat down with The Olympian alongside his siblings, but mostly kept his thoughts to himself — except when Karlee suggested he was their mom’s favorite kid, or at least that they had a special relationship: “I guess it’s different because I’m a boy and they’re girls. I enjoyed my time with her.”

Now, their mom has missed graduations and Karlee’s wedding. And all the holidays she always made sure to be present for while she was alive. Her absence is felt deeply by her family.

“It took a lot away from a lot of people,” Karlee Bodine said. “She was the victim, but other people are victims, too.”

“Whoever did this — the perpetrator or perpetrators... Have they forgotten? And are they just living their lives scot-free?” Karlee Bodine said. “Or does it bog them down? Do they think about it every single day, like we do?”


WHAT THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE SAYS ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION

Sharron Bodine said her daughter was “the delight” of her parents’ life “until the last day.”

Dave and Sharron Bodine, who live in south Thurston County, had an appointment the morning Karen’s body was found, Sharron told The Olympian. Normally, Dave would take the freeway. But Sharron hates the freeway, and said she’d go with him that day if he went “the old way.”

The Bodines saw helicopters circling and flashing lights up ahead, where law enforcement was slowly letting traffic through. Dave, a former firefighter and fire commissioner, glanced at the scene as they passed and told Sharron it “was not good.”

Later that day, detectives came to the Bodines’ door and broke the news that it was Karen. Dave had seen his daughter, without knowing it was her.

Investigators have not given away many details about the Bodine case.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Detective Mickey Hamilton explained that it’s a way to “vet information.” When a person calls in to say he or she has information on the case and knows details that haven’t been released publicly, the office will give them more credence.

However, The Olympian confirmed some details of the investigation with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office:

A Lacey police officer saw Bodine alive between 9 and 10 a.m. the day before her body was found. Based on witness accounts, she was also known to be alive that night.

About an hour before her body was found the next morning, a woman reportedly saw a vehicle at the location: An “early 1980s Datsun that appeared to be abandoned.” The car was gone when another driver found Bodine.

She was naked when she was found about a car’s width away from the roadway, and there were marks on her body and a ligature around her neck. There was no effort to hide her body.

Some initial news coverage referred to Bodine as “transient,” but her family and law enforcement say that’s not accurate.

She had been evicted from her residence by the Sheriff’s Office based on a protection order filed against her on the Friday prior to the Monday her body was found, Hamilton told The Olympian. She’d been staying at a friend’s house that weekend.

In Karlee Bodine’s words: “She always had a home.”

Hamilton confirmed Bodine had been hanging out with people who were involved in drug activity, and that “almost all of them have been arrested since then for drug activity of some type.”

“It’s not clear exactly which person killed her, but there’s several who had the potential,” Hamilton said.

The Bodine case briefly re-emerged into the public eye in 2014, when sources came forward with new information, but none of the information was enough to lead to an arrest, Hamilton said.


GIVING THE INVESTIGATION FRESH EYES

Hamilton recently got involved in the Bodine homicide investigation because he’s heading up the investigation into another unsolved Thurston County case: The disappearance of Nancy Moyer.

Moyer also was a mother in her 30s when she disappeared from her Tenino home in 2009. Her body was never found, but she’s presumed dead.

The Moyer case was set to be the focus of CrowdSolve, an October event in Seattle that allowed true-crime enthusiasts to look through cold case files under the supervision of experts. But a break in the Moyer case disrupted those plans.

In July, Eric L. Roberts allegedly confessed to killing Moyer. Prosecutors haven’t filed charges, and Roberts was ultimately released after a series of court appearances on other charges. He later told James Baysinger, creator of the Hide and Seek Podcast dedicated to the Moyer case, he didn’t remember confessing.

None of the recent developments in the Moyer case could be discussed at the CrowdSolve event in October, and Det. Hamilton brought up the Bodine case as another that the department “wanted to get solved.”

The Bodine case, with cooperation and participation of the family, ended up the focus for two days of the three-day event.

“It’s just one of those cases that’s bothered us,” Hamilton told The Olympian. “We have somebody who’s been killed, and we should be able to solve that and put someone in jail for it.”

Hamilton said multiple detectives and agencies have worked on the case, and that it’s been frustrating to not have “some sort of resolution for the family.”

“The case file itself is huge,” Hamilton said — over 1,000 pages.

The CrowdSolve event, Hamilton said, brought up some “interesting things” and allowed for conversations with experts in different fields. Among the experts in the event’s lineup were a retired U.S. Marshal, an investigative psychologist, a forensic specialist, and a medical investigator.

Hamilton said some experts suggested investigative techniques to try or “things to look at again,” while some put him in touch with other experts or labs to conduct tests he wants to pursue. All of them offered to help throughout the case, he said, and he has an ongoing dialog with most of them.

New tests on evidence are in progress.

“We have these cases that have been cold for upwards of a decade,” Hamilton said. “If nothing else, we got fresh eyes on them and we got some renewed interest in these victims, who need some justice. I think it’ll move the investigation in a positive direction.”

Taylor and Karlee Bodine both speak highly of the CrowdSolve experience and the new opportunities that have come from it. And Karen Bodine’s mother, Sharron, said it felt like meaningful progress was made.

“I think they’re going to solve it,” she said.

Taylor Bodine maintains a Facebook page titled “Justice For Karen Bodine: My Mother’s Unsolved Homicide Investigation,” which she said she plans to continue updating as the investigation progresses.


Anyone with information on the Bodine case is asked to call Det. Mickey Hamilton at 360-786-5279.

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