Coast Guardsman sought in Bellingham death found dead

BELLINGHAM — A Coast Guardsman identified as a suspect in the slaying of a 59-year-old Bellingham woman has been found dead in an apparent suicide in a remote area near Show Low, Arizona, authorities said Monday.

The U.S. Marshals Service said deputy marshals located Michael G. Arnold, 33, of Boise, Idaho, on Saturday at a family-owned Arizona cabin. Arnold had hanged himself, Deputy U.S. Marshal Frederick Freeman of Phoenix said in a statement. Deputy marshals saw what appeared to be messages spray-painted on the cabin’s exterior walls asking for forgiveness, Freeman added.

Police in the northwest Washington city of Bellingham said they questioned Arnold last week in the Aug. 3 death of Abigail Gulotta. Her body was found in her apartment by a co-worker when she didn’t show up at her job as a hairdresser at a Bellingham-area salon.

Gulotta was found dead from massive head trauma, the Bellingham Herald reported.

Witnesses told police they saw Gulotta having drinks with several Coast Guardsmen late on Saturday, Aug. 2, at several bars, police Lt. Rick Sucee told the newspaper. The description of the person last seen with Gulotta early on Aug. 3 matched one Coast Guardsman in particular.

By Aug. 6, when Arnold was brought in for questioning, Bellingham police said they considered him a “person of interest” in the death.

After several hours of questioning, detectives had insufficient evidence to arrest Arnold, “mainly due to forensic evidence that could not be processed in time” but his statements “made him a stronger suspect,” Sucee said.

Arnold was taken to a Coast Guard base in Seattle but authorities say he drained his bank account and vanished. The Coast Guard immediately sought him on an absent without leave warrant and asked for help from the Marshals Service in locating him.

Arnold’s Coast Guard cutter had been docked in the Bellingham area for maintenance. The cutter Sherman is based in San Diego, California.

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