EAST WENATCHEE — Jason E. Bush, suspected in the slayings of a man in Wenatchee in 1997 and two Arizona residents this year, is also a suspect in the 1997 killing of Jonathan Bumstead of East Wenatchee.
Bumstead’s body was found, shot in the back and head, in the Douglas Creek area of Palisades on Sept. 21, 1997. He was 18.
Authorities say Bush, 34, has ties to the Aryan Nations white-supremacist movement and that may be a factor in the Bumstead case.
“We have felt pressure for the past 12 years to solve this case,” Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal said after a news conference called Monday to announce the suspect information. “It was the only homicide case we’ve had in the county where we didn’t have a suspect.”
Gjesdal said Bush had been known to deputies as an associate of Bumstead but that Bush had not been a suspect in the killing until June. That’s when a confidential informant, working with Wenatchee police on the 1997 murder of a transient, talked about Bush’s involvement in a second homicide in the Wenatchee area. Through that conversation, and conversations with other confidential informants, authorities were able to pinpoint Bush as a suspect in the Bumstead murder.
Among the confidential informants was a person who said he was at both the Lopez and the Bumstead murders, and that Bush said after the murder that Bumstead was killed “because he was a traitor to the race,” said Wenatchee Detective John Kruse. Another informant was present at only the Bumstead murder, Kruse said.
The detectives said the confidential informants said they had no warning that the murders would take place and that they were traumatized by them. Both informants now live out of state.
Before the confidential informants revealed their information, Gjesdal said, his deputies had interviewed 150 people in the Bumstead case but had gotten no solid leads.
“There were a lot of rumors in the criminal community about who might have done it so we had to follow up on all of those,” Gjesdal said. “Although the people we talked to were drug users, it doesn’t sound like the drug connection was what we thought it was.”
Gjesdal declined to comment on a possible motive. He said an affidavit of probable cause was filed by Douglas County Detective Steve Groseclose with Prosecutor Steve Clem. Gjesdal declined to release a copy of that affidavit, saying it was not a public document. He referred questions about the affidavit to Clem.
Clem, contacted by telephone, said the document will not be a public record until it is filed with the county clerk’s office. He said he had not yet had time to read the affidavit and that it may not be filed until next week.
Asked to read the report and see if a motive was mentioned, Clem took time to read, then said, “It’s difficult to really tell clearly what the motive is. The statements are all inferences. It has something to do with Jason Bush’s involvement in Aryan Nations activities and Jonathan Bumstead’s involvement or affinity for Aryan nations stuff.”
Bumstead’s father, Jon Bumstead of East Wenatchee, was at the Monday press conference and thanked officers for their efforts in finding a suspect in his son’s case.
“Until we get an arrest, this is great that this is happening, but it’s not done,” he said.
Bumstead said his wife, Frieda, was too upset by the news about a suspect to attend the press conference. He said they may speak about their feelings at a later time.
The Bumsteads have said over the years that their son had a drug problem and that they thought he was killed because of it. They have written many letters to The Safety Valve at The Wenatchee World, asking that their son’s case not be forgotten, and they have spoken to civic groups about the dangers of drugs.
The possible connection of Bush to the Bumstead case came as Wenatchee police were investigating Bush as a suspect in the 1997 slaying of Hector Manuel Lopez Partida, 29. Lopez, a transient, was stabbed seven times July 24, 1997, while sleeping near the 700 block of South Wenatchee Avenue.
A confidential informant in that case told Wenatchee detectives June 11 about Bush’s involvement in a second Wenatchee area homicide. Detectives said that informant and others agreed to talk now because Bush is in jail awaiting prosecution on other murder charges. Previously, the informants said, they feared for their safety and that of their families if they talked about the Bumstead murder, according to Groseclose and Kruse.
Groseclose said Bush and Bumstead were friends but declined to be more specific.
Kruse said three other confidential informants were involved. One said Bush mentioned that he committed both the Lopez and the Bumstead murders. Another said Bush talked about killing two people in the Wenatchee area. And a third said that Bush confessed to the Lopez murder.
Bush is in jail in Pima County, Ariz., on murder charges unrelated to the Wenatchee crimes. His attorney, Christian Kimminau of Pima County declined to comment.
Kruse said that he knows of no other unsolved murders in the Wenatchee area that might be connected to Bush.
Gjesdal said he knows that Douglas County’s case is going to take a lower priority than the cases against Bush in Arizona.
Still, he said, “I think it’s still important that the suspect knows that, if for some reason he slips by those charges, there is a charge in Douglas County waiting.”