Argument over rent led to slaying, say prosecutors

EVERETT — An Arlington woman may have been strangled and later set on fire all because she asked a tenant for overdue rent.

Prosecutors have charged the tenant, Gary A. McLaughlin III with second-degree murder and first-degree arson in connection with the death of Cynthia Goldman. McLaughlin is accused of strangling Goldman in her home and then starting a fire in an attempt to cover up the Feb. 15 homicide.

McLaughlin, 22, made a brief court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge Dave Kurtz maintained bail at $2 million. He set the defendant’s trial for May 18.

Firefighters were summoned to a report of a fire at Goldman’s home in the 18600 block of Silverleaf Place. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze. During their search of the heavily-damaged house, they found Goldman’s body in the living room. Investigators noticed the distinct smell of gasoline near where the fire started and where Goldman’s body was found.

The county medical examiner concluded that Goldman, 54, had been strangled before the fire was started.

Detectives learned that Goldman rented rooms to two tenants, including McLaughlin. They also heard from witnesses that Goldman was concerned that McLaughlin hadn’t been paying his rent.

McLaughlin initially denied being at the house for several days. He reportedly admitted that he was avoiding Goldman because he owed the landlady rent.

Investigators searched McLaughlin’s room and located a gas can in the closet. Detectives focused their attention on McLaughlin and interviewed his friends. They learned that McLaughlin reportedly admitted that Goldman died in “an accident” and he’d started the fire to cover up the accident, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Chris Dickinson wrote in charging papers.

Court papers also say that McLaughlin attempted to convince a friend to create an alibi for him for the day Goldman was killed.

McLaughlin was arrested a couple days after the homicide. He reportedly admitted to detectives that he’d put his hands around the victim’s neck during a confrontation over rent, court papers said. He allegedly said that Goldman lost consciousness and when he checked on her later, he discovered that she was dead. He reportedly admitted that he then doused her with gasoline and set her and the house on fire.

McLaughlin fled the house before firefighters arrived.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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