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Originally published Friday, September 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Writer claims responsibility for Bellingham slayings, warns other offenders

The investigation into the slaying of two Level 3 sex offenders in Bellingham has taken a twist with an anonymous letter claiming responsibility...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The investigation into the slaying of two Level 3 sex offenders in Bellingham has taken a twist with an anonymous letter claiming responsibility for the killings — and threatening the county's other high-risk offenders.

The letter, mailed to The Bellingham Herald on Wednesday, may be a hoax, said Bellingham police Lt. Craige Ambrose. But police, working with the state Department of Corrections (DOC), warned the sex offenders named in the letter, which was not released to the public.

The details in the letter about the crime have been publicly available and, therefore, anyone could have written the letter, Ambrose said.

"When we're not sure if it's the real thing or a hoax, we decided to take some extra precaution," he said.

Kit Bail, supervisor of the DOC's field offices in Whatcom County, said the letter was alarming. "The threat was pretty clear: These are 25 people that should not be on the street. It named names," she said.

"We're taking it very seriously. How could you not? We have two sex offenders murdered."

Washington's 15-year-old sex-offender registration law requires police to warn the public of high-risk sex offenders being released from prison. According to the State Patrol, Whatcom County is home to 38 Level 3 offenders, deemed the most likely to reoffend.

Saturday, a man wearing a blue jumpsuit and a baseball cap with an FBI logo visited three Level 3 offenders living together, allegedly to warn them of a "hit list" targeting sex offenders, police say. One roommate left for work, and when he returned, he found his roommates — Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68 — dead, the roommate told police.

Police say one possible motive was vigilante justice, though that is not the only motive being considered. The killing nonetheless unnerved Chad Pyles, a 24-year-old convicted of rape, who lives three blocks from the homicide.

"If they went after a couple of senior citizens, why not me?" said Pyles, a Level 3 offender.

Ofelia Ayala, mother of another Whatcom County Level 3 sex offender, said her son called her last night after learning of the letter. He was scared and asked for money to buy a cellphone to use in case of an emergency, she said.

"He's concerned about it, because he's gotten beat up a few times" for being a Level 3 offender, Ayala said.

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Ambrose, the police lieutenant, urged people not to overreact to the letter. If the slain men's killer wrote it, he said, detectives think it likely would have had details not publicly available.

On the other hand, he said, "if it's really the shooter, that's like having a conversation with us."

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

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