By Jackson Holtz and Diana Hefley Herald Writers
GOLD BAR — More heartbreaking evidence was discovered Thursday night in the search for a missing Everett woman.
Sherry Harlan’s car was located near a gravel pit outside Gold Bar. Detectives discovered partial human remains inside the burned-out Nissan Sentra, a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor said Friday afternoon.
Detectives now are investigating a confirmed homicide, deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said. The remains haven’t conclusively been identified as Harlan’s, but forensic tests are planned by the medical examiner. Results could take up to a week, Matheson said.
Harlan’s ex-boyfriend made his first court appearance Friday afternoon. A judge ordered him held on $2 million bail. Eric James Christensen was arrested Thursday for investigation of second-degree murder in connection with Harlan’s disappearance.
Matheson said Christensen, 40, has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for assault and sexual abuse. A murder conviction for Christensen could be a third strike under the state’s persistent offender law and send him to prison for life, Matheson said.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives believe a bloody shoe print on a T-shirt inside Harlan’s south Everett apartment links Christensen to the apartment where she disappeared, a police affidavit said.
The print from blood on a shoe with a zigzag-patterned sole was found as investigators combed Harlan’s rental unit Wednesday for clues after she was reported missing.
Despite someone’s apparent effort to clean the apartment with bleach and remove about 18 square feet of carpet, detectives found blood in numerous locations. There also were cuts through a futon mattress and others signs of a violent struggle.
Later, when detectives searched an apartment near Gold Bar where Christensen lives, they found a pair of red and black basketball shoes with a sole pattern that matches the bloody shoe print left in Harlan’s apartment, according a police report.
They also found a pair of blood-soaked jeans. Somebody appears to have tried to clean the pants using bleach.
Detectives used these findings and other evidence to ask a judge to jail Christensen for investigation of second-degree murder. He is a convicted felon and Level 1 sex offender.
Christensen told police he hasn’t seen Harlan, her car or her dog, Roscoe, since the former couple had an argument Jan. 2.
Phone records showed the last time Harlan took a call was early Jan. 2. The call came from her ex-boyfriend’s phone.
Friends, neighbors and Harlan’s co-workers at JC Penney in Lynnwood all became concerned when the 35-year-old didn’t show up for shifts since New Year’s Day.
Police were called Tuesday night, and by Wednesday detectives called Harlan’s disappearance suspicious.
Christensen helped Harlan move into the apartment just after Christmas, a friend told police.
A neighbor told detectives that Harlan said the man had “beat her to a bloody pulp” in the past. Harlan was afraid to break up with the man, fearing he’d kill her, police said.
Neighbors reported hearing a loud and violent confrontation between a man and a woman Jan. 2 in Harlan’s apartment. Witnesses saw someone matching the ex-boyfriend’s description at the apartment.
That was four days before Harlan was reported missing. One neighbor reported seeing Christensen the day of the argument huddled down next to Harlan’s car. Roscoe, the dog, was inside.
The neighbor asked where Harlan was. Christensen said he didn’t know, but said it was her dog in the car.
When police questioned Christensen on Wednesday, they noticed he had numerous wounds that appeared to have come from a fight. He told detectives that after he left Harlan’s apartment, he’d been jumped by “Mexicans.”
On Tuesday, four days after Harlan disappeared, a witness in Gold Bar said he saw the man with Harlan’s dog.
Christensen said that Harlan “didn’t need the dog anymore,” detectives wrote in their report.
Detectives haven’t found the dog.
Jeri Schaible was at Friday’s hearing and said she dated Christensen in 2006. She said he had trouble controlling his anger. Schaible said he once became upset with her after she told him she couldn’t give him a ride to a Wiccan service because she promised to take a teenage friend to the gathering.
“He was physically aggressive,” she said. “These are not things that are acceptable.”