Missing High School Football Player Found—and Arrested on Suspicion of Murder

Dan Thornberg/Getty
Dan Thornberg/Getty

The search for a missing high school football player in Washington state ended with good news Friday when authorities said he’d been found—but now, in an unexpected twist, police say the 16-year-old is suspected of murder.

The student at Olympia High School, whom The Daily Beast is not naming because he is a minor, vanished while on his way to football practice Wednesday, and the stakes were almost immediately raised when police announced that his vehicle had been found abandoned in “suspicious circumstances.”

Blood was found inside the vehicle, and his cell phone was found shattered on the ground, according to local news station KIRO 7.

Police said he had been seen walking alone down a road on the same evening he was reported missing by family, only adding to the mystery.

After an extensive search, the community was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief Friday morning, when the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office announced the teen had been found late the night before and returned safely to his family.

But now authorities say a 51-year-old man was found dead with a gunshot wound just hours before the missing football player was located on Thursday—and both the teen and another 16-year-old are suspected in the killing.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s office, which did not name the juvenile suspects, the two teens were arrested late Friday and booked into a juvenile detention facility on suspicion of second-degree murder, burglary, and firearm possession charges. Booking information for Pierce County shows the missing teen listed as one of two juveniles taken into custody on those charges late Friday.

No further details were immediately available on what led police to suspect the two teens, but the sheriff's office said in a press release they had “enough evidence for probable cause” to make the arrests.

Police have not yet identified the 51-year-old gunshot victim, but said they believe he knew the missing teen now suspected in his murder.

The man was found in his home in Orting when officials searched his home after someone reported his absence from work. Detectives and forensic investigators concluded that the man had been dead for at least 24 hours prior to the grisly discovery on Thursday.

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