David Stodden hikes the Pinnacle Lake trail in 2016. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

David Stodden hikes the Pinnacle Lake trail in 2016. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

David Stodden passes a polygraph, hopes for tips in slayings

It has been more than 12 years since his wife and daughter were shot on the Pinnacle Lake trail.

EVERETT — More than 12 years after his wife and daughter were killed while hiking east of Granite Falls, a Seattle man was back at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to take a polygraph Wednesday.

David Stodden said he showed up voluntarily with the goal of convincing detectives to eliminate him and focus on finding other potential suspects.

Mary Cooper, an elementary school librarian, and her oldest daughter, Susanna Stodden, were hiking along the Pinnacle Lake trail 20 miles east of Granite Falls when they were shot to death July 11, 2006. Mary was 56; Susanna had just turned 27.

David Stodden, 69, said he was told Wednesday that he had passed the lie-detector test, which included questions asked multiple times about whether he was involved in the deaths.

The case was reassigned to a cold case team after a detective retired about two years ago.

The sheriff’s office confirmed Stodden passed the exam.

“The spouse did come in today and did a polygraph exam and he did pass and detectives do not believe he is involved,” said Courtney O’Keefe, an agency spokeswoman.

Mary Cooper (right) and Susanna Stodden in 2004.

Mary Cooper (right) and Susanna Stodden in 2004.

Stodden had twice previously taken polygraphs, which are a common investigative tool but generally are not considered reliable enough to be admissible in court. He has said in the past that he understands why detectives would want him to take a lie-detector test, that questioning of partners can come with the territory. Strangers account for roughly one in five homicides in America, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics. About a third of all killings go unsolved.

“I feel better,” Stodden said Wednesday. “Maybe now when I come to see the detectives we can talk about somebody else. I guess I’m trying to get Mary and Susanna’s case moved up a bit.”

Stodden, who pedalled his bike from Seattle to Everett for the interview, has never been shy about talking to the media, taking out newspaper ads or prodding detectives. He said he does so in hopes it will lead to a tip. Seattle reporters waited for him on the county courthouse grounds Wednesday.

“I’m just trying to get people to come forward,” Stodden said. “I can’t get in a hurry, unless someone gets Jesus and comes in.”

The day they died, Mary and Susanna left Seattle in the family’s 1997 Dodge Caravan. Their plan was to hike on the other side of Mount Pilchuck, but they changed their itinerary that morning, likely out of fear there still could be snow on the ground.

Pinnacle Lake is in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There were just a few cars parked at the trailhead that day.

Around 10 a.m., the mother and daughter chatted with a couple near the foot of the trail. He was a retired music teacher and she was a doctor. The couple’s plan was to hike beyond the lake and scramble a ways up the mountain. They went on ahead.

The couple reported hearing what sounded like thunder. In hindsight, it might have been the echo of gunshots. They found the bodies on their way down.

Another hiker had come upon the mother and daughter first and had made his way to a campground to call for help around 2:30 p.m.

“Our detectives are actively working it,” O’Keefe said Wednesday. “They want justice for the victims and the family. We are really asking for tips and leads. The smallest bit of information could be the key piece that detectives need in solving this case.”

Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s office anonymous tipline at 425-388-3845.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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