Locals fondly recall author Ann Rule

Around the world, Ann Rule’s fans have devoured her true-crime books. In Snohomish County, the bestselling author made friends in law enforcement and found murder cases to write about. Those friends remember a kind woman who cared about victims.

“She was a good person. She deserves to be remembered,” said Mark Bond, a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy and Mill Creek City Councilman.

Rule, who died Sunday at 83, was best known for “The Stranger Beside Me,” about serial killer Ted Bundy. She and Bundy had once worked together at a crisis hot line in Seattle.

Bond was a Mill Creek police officer in 2000 when he was badly hurt in a motorcycle accident. He was on a charity ride in Canada and lost his lower left leg. Friends and officials, including then-Sheriff Rick Bart and then-state Rep. John Lovick, organized a fundraising event in Mill Creek to help with Bond’s medical expenses.

Chuck Wright, a retired probation and parole supervisor with the state, enlisted Rule to attend the fundraiser.

“Chuck had been good friends with Ann,” Bond said. “She agreed to come, and word got out. She was really compassionate about my situation. The event was incredibly successful. Her name drew a lot of people from a much bigger area.”

Bond remembers Rule as charismatic and genuinely nice. “When she talked — a storyteller by trade — it drew you in. She was not at all caught up in her status, her success. She was truly enjoyable to be around,” he said.

Wright, 70, lives in Mill Creek and now works as a licensed mental health counselor. Before Gary Ridgway’s 2001 arrest in the killings of dozens of prostitutes in King County, Wright was a consultant for the Green River Task Force working to solve those murders. He has a graduate degree in human sexuality from New York University and taught law and justice at Seattle University and Central Washington University’s Lynnwood campus. Wright said he assigned some of Rule’s books as coursework.

He is featured in her book “Green River, Running Red” and is mentioned in several of her true-crime anthologies. One of them, “A Rage to Kill and Other True Cases — Ann Rule’s Crime Files: Vol. 6,” includes Wright’s interaction with the court in a case of a transgender prostitute and killer.

It was Wright who introduced the true-crime writer to Jim Scharf, a detective with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Scharf has worked since 2005 to solve local cold cases. Wright volunteers with the cold-case unit.

“I met Ann Rule, it was probably 2007 or 2008, when she was a guest speaker for Families &Friends of Violent Crime Victims,” Scharf said. That local organization is now Victims Support Services.

“She had such a memory of names, for all the people she had written about, and the families she dealt with. She kept in touch with a lot of the victims’ families,” Scharf said. “We ended up talking about different cases we were working on, and I suggested to her that we had a pretty unusual case in Snohomish County.”

That case was the 1997 murder of Chuck Leonard, a counselor at an Everett middle school. His estranged wife, Teresa Gaethe-Leonard, claimed she fatally shot Leonard at his Lake Goodwin home to protect their young daughter from abuse. Before she was convicted of murder, she had fled to Puerto Rico. The Leonard saga became part of Rule’s 2009 book “But I Trusted You and Other True Cases.”

“She ended up meeting with Brad Pince, the lead detective on the case,” said Scharf, who is mentioned in “But I Trusted You.” The book includes “a photo of myself, Brad Pince and the prosecutor, now a judge, Michael Downes,” Scharf said.

Rule’s 2013 book, “Practice to Deceive,” centers on a Whidbey Island case, the murder of Russel Douglas. He was found shot to death in his car on Whidbey on Christmas Day 2003. Scharf said Rule’s health deteriorated after she injured her hip during a book event on Whidbey. “She was going to see her fans. She loved doing that. She probably signed more books than anyone,” he said.

Wright said he appeared on several panels with Rule. One time, he said, Rule discussed something she saw in the Bundy case that he later noted in the case of Paul Keller, a serial arsonist. Both had used phones to carry on conversations shortly after their crimes. Keller set dozens of fires around the region in 1992 and 1993, for which he received a 75-year sentence. He also pleaded guilty to murder in the deaths of three victims of a Seattle nursing home fire.

Rule told Keller’s tale in one of her anthologies, as well as that of triple murderer Charles Rodman Campbell and other local criminals.

“It always came back to her caring about victims,” Wright said. “When she wrote, she wanted to make sure she didn’t victimize the victims.”

Bond agrees. “It wasn’t all about her. It was about others,” he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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