Fear grips Monroe after homicide

Father grieves over his daughter’s death

By CATHY LOGG and KARL SCHWEIZER

Herald Writers

MONROE — Don Wallace spent the last two weeks searching for his missing daughter, once going nonstop for 22 hours until he became disoriented and had to surrender to a few hours of sleep.

On Tuesday, he grieved over her death and planned to erect a cross donated by a local factory at the roadside ditch where her body was found.

The Snohomish County medical examiner identified Tina M. Wallace, 39, of Monroe as the woman whose body was found Monday by a woman walking her children to a school bus stop on 167th Avenue SE south of the city.

Tina Wallace had been missing since Nov. 12, when she was seen leaving the Chopping Block Tavern in Monroe. Her death — at least the third of a single woman who was killed after leaving a Monroe tavern and later found dumped along or near a rural road — has stirred talk and fear in the community.

Snohomish County sheriff’s investigators and Monroe police say it’s too early to tell if two of those women’s deaths — Wallace and Cynthia Rearden, whose remains were found in February near Sultan — are related. The third case, from 1997, was a thrill killing by strangers and has been solved.

"It’s terrible," said a woman who lives on 167th Avenue SE and discovered Tina Wallace’s body. She asked not to be identified. She worries that if Tina Wallace was killed in the lot across the street from the ditch and not just dumped after her death, the killer might return.

"Somebody needed to find her so the family knows," the woman said softly. "My heart goes out to her family."

The woman was walking her three children to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill on Monday. The ditch was filled with water, and "I have girls with boots who love to splash," she said. After they’d sloshed in the water a ways, they came to a portion of the ditch that contained no water but was covered in brush. The girls came out of the ditch as they continued down the hill.

"I glanced over into the woods and saw an arm," she said. "Just the forearm and hand; that’s all that was exposed."

At first, she thought it was part of a discarded Halloween costume. At the bus stop, she told a neighbor. The man walked over to take a closer look and agreed it was a human body. He returned to his home and called 911, she said.

Law officers and searchers combed the area all day Monday and Tuesday, including a helicopter that flew over the scene near the Snohomish River in the 21400 block of 167th Avenue SE.

"It’s going to make the neighborhood a little uneasy for a while," said resident Don Rich. "It’s a pretty spooky thing. It’s just strange. Out here we feel so safe."

He and other nearby residents say Wallace’s body probably could have been dumped anywhere, which helps them still feel somewhat safe in the quiet neighborhood.

Don Wallace has been to the scene, but found no comfort in the tall, damp grasses and fading blackberry vines. The discovery certainly wasn’t how he had hoped to find his daughter. He’d questioned many of her friends in his extensive search.

"She probably knew half the people in Monroe," he said. "She had many, many friends. She also, unfortunately, had two or three enemies."

Those enemies were from past relationships, he said.

Tina Wallace left behind a 15-year-old daughter, a brother, a sister and other relatives, he said. She also had a large Persian-Siamese cat named Mocha.

Born in Baldwin Park, Calif., Tina Wallace had lived in Kirkland, where she worked for her father in his painting contractor business, and traveled with him when he worked as a painter for a campground association. The two also shared a love of gambling and sometimes went to horse races together.

"She and I, we’d go to Longacres. We’d get ecstatic when we’d hit a big one and win a chunk of money," Don Wallace said.

He last saw his daughter three hours before her disappearance, when he took her to The Hay Loft Saloon to meet two female friends. One friend left, and Tina Wallace and the other woman went about two blocks away to the Chopping Block Tavern, he said.

Tina Wallace was in the tavern less than 30 minutes, tavern owner Annie Arndt said.

"I feel really spooked because this has happened to me twice," she said.

Vickie Tucker, 39, of Monroe was last seen at the tavern before her disappearance and death in 1997. She was shot and her body dumped in a ditch along Reiner Road near Sultan, not far from where Rearden’s body was found off Woods Lake Road.

"When Cynthia disappeared, nobody took it seriously," Arndt said.

Police came asking questions months after Rearden vanished, she said.

"I have a lot of respect for the Monroe police," she added. "They’ve taken (Tina Wallace’s) disappearance seriously. They’ve been right on top of this."

All three of the women who have died after leaving local taverns were single mothers.

"Ninety percent of my female customers are single moms, me included," Arndt said. "We’re all scared to death."

They now have established a buddy system. If one woman walks out to her car, someone escorts her. If women customers walk down the block, they walk in pairs, she said. One bartender who finishes up about 2 a.m. does some extra cleaning and stays inside until daylight because she’s afraid to go outside alone, Arndt said.

"I think the community as a whole is very concerned," she said. "Tina didn’t deserve what she got. Nobody deserves it."

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