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Unsolved, part 2: Family's fears grow when car found in field

  • Patti Berry plays with her daughter at an area park in 1994. The little girl is then about a year old.

    Patti Berry plays with her daughter at an area park in 1994. The little girl is then about a year old.

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By Scott North
Herald writer
First published July 26, 1999 Lisa Berry spent the beginning of August 1995 searching for her sister. She'd come from her home in Spokane that week planning to spend a couple of days visiting with family. Among those she'd arranged to see was Patti Berry, 26, who had invited her to drop by Honey's, the nude nightclub where she worked as a dancer. Lisa was a year and a half older than her sister Patti, and growing up, the two often argued. "Honestly, we fought like cats and dogs," Lisa Berry said. "We were just really close in age, so there was the constant bickering back and forth. She was always getting into my stuff." But time, the births of their children, and growing older changed all that. Lisa Berry discovered that her younger sister was a lot of fun to be around, bursting with life and a real joker. One time they went on a Hawaiian vacation together, sharing a small house. Lisa Berry and her boyfriend got the bedroom. Patti Berry took the sofa. It wasn't long after the lights went out that Patti Berry was screaming and pounding on the bedroom door, demanding to be let inside.


The Patti Berry story (1999)
Part 1: Four years of grief and pain
Part 2: Family's fears grow when car found in field
Part 3: Detective uses field skills to track a killer
Part 4: Investigator narrows in on a key suspect
Part 5: Investigators hope the devil is in the details
Part 6: Slain mother's love manages to find daughter

She said there was a cockroach the size of a pigeon scuttling around on the floor. The bug was huge, so big its movements could be heard through the walls, Lisa Berry said. Everybody was grossed out. They wound up laughing until they cried. There was nothing funny about Patti's disappearance. When she didn't come home after her shift at Honey's early the morning of July 31, when she didn't show up at the baby-sitter to pick up her daughter, the family knew something was terribly wrong. "It was the nightmare from there on out," Lisa Berry said. The family's hunt began with frantic phone calls to the police and hospital emergency rooms. No Patti. Lisa Berry thought her sister might be in jail. She knew that police in Snohomish and King counties regularly run undercover operations in the clubs, looking for dancers having illicit contact with patrons. Perhaps she'd been caught up in a sweep, or was cooling her heels in a holding cell because she had unpaid traffic tickets. But Patti Berry wasn't behind bars. The missing woman's family knew she'd recently spent two weeks dancing at a club in El Paso, Texas. She'd met a man down there, and he'd accompanied her back, vacationing in the area for a few days. Perhaps Patti Berry had hopped on a plane and gone to join him? Officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport checked the parking garage. Patti Berry's car wasn't there. By Aug. 1, the family had learned that Patti Berry's car had a partially flat tire when she left the club. The missing woman may have been headed to a service station. Lisa Berry, accompanied by two other members of her family, went to Honey's and drove routes they thought Patti Berry would have taken to reach home, stopping at service stations along the way. They headed north on Highway 99 and took a right on 128th Street SW. The route not only took them past several service stations, but also past Patti Berry's favorite restaurant, Taco Bell. Lisa Berry and the rest of the search party drove through parking lots and alleys, finally approaching a car wash in the 400 block of 128th Street SW. It was just before 10 p.m. when she spotted a vehicle that looked like her sister's blue 1985 Honda Prelude. The license plate confirmed a match. Patti Berry's car was tucked among some rental trucks parked along a grassy strip behind the car wash. The front window on the driver's side was rolled down. Lisa Berry didn't approach. Instead, she summoned police. Deputies from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office arrived. They knew Patti Berry was missing too. One of the lawmen walked up to the car, put his foot on the bumper, and gave it a bounce. He was checking to see if there was a body in the trunk. Homicide detectives arrived and spent a long time looking into the car with their flashlights. One of the men approached Lisa Berry and asked if she knew her missing sister's blood type. She demanded to know why. The solemn-faced detective took her to the car and pointed to numerous places where blood had stained, spattered and pooled. Lisa Berry followed the flashlight beam as it worked its way around the car's interior. She spotted white paper napkins on the floorboard behind the driver's seat. They were stained with bright red drops of blood. Lisa Berry thought: Help her! Help her! Help my sister! But in her heart, she knew it was too late.

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