By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — The sister of an Arlington woman strangled in her home last week before her house was set on fire told a judge Tuesday that her family will never be the same.
Everett District Court Judge pro tem Thomas Cox set bail at $2 million for Gary A. McLaughlin who was arrested for investigation of second-degree murder and first-degree arson.
McLaughlin, 21, is accused of strangling his landlord Cynthia Goldman, 54, and setting her home on fire to cover up what happened, according to court papers.
At a bail hearing Tuesday, Rhonda Durand said it was as though her sister was killed twice.
“It is so inhuman,” she said.
The fire occurred Feb. 15 in the 18600 block of Silverleaf Place. Fire investigators noticed a smell of some sort of flammable liquid near the body. The next day the Snohomish County Medical Examiner completed an autopsy and ruled the death a homicide caused by strangulation that occurred before the fire.
Since it appeared the fire was set to cover up a homicide, Arlington police requested assistance from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit detectives to continue the investigation, officials said.
McLaughlin initially told detectives that he hadn’t seen the victim for 10 days. He said he was avoiding her because he could not pay his rent. He said he had been staying overnight with friends and had gone to visit other friends in Everett at the time of the fire, according to court papers.
A search warrant turned up a gas can in an upstairs closet that was in the suspect’s bedroom.
Meanwhile, an acquaintance of McLaughlin told detectives she received text messages and a cell phone call from the suspect on the day of the fire. McLaughlin allegedly told her he was at the Arlington home doing laundry. She also said the suspect urged her to tell police that she was with him at the time of the fire.
He also allegedly told her that there was an accident he covered up and he would go to prison if she didn’t “have his back.”
Sheriff’s deputies arrested McLaughlin on Friday. During an interview, he acknowledged being in the victim’s home and getting into an argument at the bottom of the stairs on the day of the fire. He allegedly admitted grabbing Goldman by the neck with his left hand and pinning her against the wall while squeezing hard, according to court papers.
He said she fell to the floor and he walked upstairs. When he came downstairs, he allegedly said the victim was hunched over in her recliner chair and appeared to be having trouble breathing. She then slipped out of the chair and stopped breathing, he told detectives.
That’s when he went to the garage to get a gas can. He said he poured gasoline on the couch next to the recliner that Goldman had been sitting in.
McLaughlin pulled a lighter out of this pocket and lit the couch on fire to cover up what happened, court papers said. He told detectives he then went into the woods and smoked marijuana.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org