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Sammamish woman found dead on boat was strangled

A Sammamish woman found dead off Orcas Island on a boat where her boyfriend killed himself had been strangled, San Juan County prosecutor Randall Gaylord said today.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Sammamish woman found dead off Orcas Island on a boat where her boyfriend killed himself had been strangled, San Juan County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord said today.

Rhan Rha, 39, is believed to have been killed on the boat sometime during the "p.m. hours" on Tuesday before the boat arrived in San Juan County, said Gaylord, who also serves as the county coroner.

Investigators have been using the boat's global-positioning system (GPS) trying to track the last movements of the boat where Albert Beutler, 39, of Bellevue fatally shot himself just off Orcas Island Wednesday afternoon, the San Juan County Sheriff's Office said.

Beutler is believed to have killed Rha, the Sheriff's Office said.

The bodies were found in the forward berth of Beutler's 36-foot powerboat, Moon Angel.

Rha had been dead for some period when investigators, who had been pursuing the boat, boarded the vessel Wednesday afternoon after following it from Friday Harbor into President Channel, the Sheriff's Office said.

Autopsies on both victims were performed by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office. Rha's death was ruled a homicide; Beutler's death a suicide.

The condition of Rha's body suggested she was killed on the boat, although it isn't known where the boat was at the time, Randall said.

Beutler, who has worked in the service departments of auto dealerships in Seattle and Bellevue, initially came to the attention of Bellevue police Wednesday morning when a friend of his alerted the department that Beutler had disclosed killing his girlfriend and being suicidal in a text message, said Bellevue police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate.

Beutler then texted about five other people, who called Bellevue police to report he had written comments indicating he might harm employees at BMW of Bellevue, where he worked or had worked in the past, Iafrate said.

Officers were placed on the perimeter of the dealership until Bellevue police determined, through an emergency trace of his cellphone, that he likely was traveling in the San Juan Islands.

Boats from the Coast Guard, Customs/Homeland Security Protection Agency and the Sheriff's Office, along with a Coast Guard helicopter, began searching for Beutler's boat.

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When Beutler was seen on the deck of his boat by the searchers, he was ordered to remain there but he went below and fatally shot himself in the head near Rha's body, the Sheriff's Office said.

A 9-mm handgun was recovered..

Marc Cannon, senior vice president at AutoNation, which owns the Bellevue BMW dealership, said investigators have asked the company not to comment on the matter.

Cannon said Beutler worked in the service department, but declined to say if he was still working for the dealership at the time of his death.

Several years ago, Beutler worked as the service manager of a Ballard auto dealership that has since closed, said a former friend, who asked not to be identified.

Court records indicate he was twice divorced in Benton County, once in 1995 and again in 2001. No criminal convictions could be found in Washington court records, which list only two speeding tickets.

Seattle Municipal Court records show that Beutler apparently was charged in 1998 with misdemeanor assault in a domestic violence case. The case, which was listed in a state court database under a different name, was ultimately dismissed when court conditions were met.

A woman who answered the telephone at a relative's home in Richland in Eastern Washington declined to comment Thursday.

Rha's relatives couldn't be reached Thursday.

Rha was a South Korean national. Randall said he notified the South Korean consulate in Seattle of her death and arranged for notification of her mother in Seoul.

The couple appear to have listed each other as friends on the Web site Eastside Entrepreneurs Social Network on June 2.

On another Web site that helps international students and hosts find each other, a woman with the same name described herself as a piano teacher with a son in elementary school.

She offered space in her home, describing herself as living in a great school district, with many colleges nearby, along with the Microsoft campus, shopping and entertainment.

"We are very social, love outdoor activities, and enjoy weekend activities," the woman wrote.

Seattle Times researchers

David Turim and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story and material from Times archives

is included.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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