Killer Instincts Print
Written by Tom Griffin   
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Killer Instincts
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ImageFor Pamela Waechter, it was just another day in the office. For Mary Cooper, it was just another walk in the woods. For both UW alumnae, it would be the last day of their lives.

On July 28, 2006, Waechter was working in the Belltown offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Suddenly a deranged man, later identified as 30-year-old Naveed Haq, burst into the offices with a gun. He demanded to see the manager.

“Is this a robbery?” the receptionist wondered as she called her supervisor. Answering the buzz was 58-year-old Waechter, a 1985 graduate of the UW nutritional science program, who was the director of the federation’s annual fund. According to police reports, as she came into the reception area, the shooter opened fire, hitting several office workers, while shouting that he was making “a statement” about U.S. support for Israel.

Waechter, wounded in the chest, turned away and ran up some stairs. Haq followed her into the stairwell, according to reports, and killed her.

Just 17 days earlier, school librarian Mary Cooper and her daughter, Susanna Cooper Stodden, decided to go on a hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Cooper and her 27-year-old daughter were avid hikers. A librarian at the AE2 elementary school in northeast Seattle, the 56-year-old Cooper had two UW degrees: a 1975 bachelor’s in education and a 2004 master’s in library and information sciences.

After driving 20 miles on the rugged Mountain Loop Highway east of Granite Falls, they turned onto Pinnacle Lake Road, a twisting, pothole-laden track. It took their Dodge Caravan about an hour to drive six miles to the trailhead.
In the parking lot, two hikers chatted with the women. “They seemed like exceptionally nice people and if we had had the same itinerary, we may have hiked with them,” one later reported on a local Internet hiking site.

What exactly happened to Cooper and Stodden is unclear. Police are withholding most details of the crime, but both were shot in the head about two miles from their van.

Later, the hikers who met the women that morning discovered the bodies. “We have never spent a more terrifying half-hour than our hike back to the trailhead. We had one ice ax between us which I held at the ready the entire time, not knowing if we would be attacked by a killer still lurking in the area,” one reported.

Ambulances race to the offices of the Jewish Federation July 28th. Photo courtesy of KOMO-TV.
That two UW graduates—both women in their mid-50s working in the non-profit sector—were shot and killed in the same month was a double blow to the UW community. In fact, 2006 was a bloody year for the city of Seattle. In the spring, Kyle Aaron Huff killed six at a Capitol Hill “post-rave” party and then shot himself. In December, an attempted murder in the U District just north of campus shocked the neighborhood, even though neither the shooter nor his victim was a UW student.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Seattle newspapers reported in January that homicides were “on the rise” as the number of murders in the city increased from 25 in 2005 to 30 last year.

Murder has never been so popular. CSI TV shows constantly win ratings battles. Local TV news departments invariably lead their broadcasts with the latest grisly homicide. Cable TV feasts on national murder stories such as the JonBenet Ramsey mystery.