Key question in Stawicki case: What happened to the truck?
A week after Ian Stawicki killed five people before turning a handgun on himself, his family struggles for answers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Walt Stawicki knows some questions may never be answered.
Mainly, why did his 40-year-old son, Ian Stawicki, gun down five people last week before taking his own life in a violent four hours that still reverberate around the city. His family says he was mentally ill and needed help, but never saw the violence coming.
Another question, one that has sent the elder Stawicki to follow his son's deadly path, has not been answered: How did the gunman get from Cafe Racer Espresso, where he killed four people, to a parking lot near Town Hall Seattle, where his fifth victim was killed 37 minutes later?
For Walt Stawicki, it's a search that's focused on his wife's pickup.
Stawicki, 65, said his son left his mother's Green Lake home May 30 driving her 2001 silver Ford F-150. He told his family he planned to help his girlfriend's mother move into a new home in Tacoma.
Instead, Ian Stawicki went to Cafe Racer in the University District, where at 10:56 a.m. he shot five people, killing four: Joe Albanese, 52; Drew Keriakedes, 45; Kimberly Layfield, 38; and Donald Largen, 57.
The lone survivor, Cafe Racer chef Leonard Meuse, 46, was shot in the face and the armpit. His condition was upgraded Wednesday to satisfactory, and he has been transferred out of the intensive-care unit at Harborview Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.
"He started speaking two days ago, and it was garbled. Each day he speaks, it's better," said Elaine Meuse, his mother. "He's got nuts and bolts in his jaw; he lost a lot of teeth."
She said her son has not talked about what happened inside Cafe Racer.
"He's depressed," she said. "Leonard probably feels sad that so many people were hurt and killed. He was crying in the hospital today."
After the shootings at Cafe Racer, Ian Stawicki made his way downtown, where he confronted Gloria Koch Leonidas at 11:33 a.m. in a parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, adjacent to Town Hall, just after she paid to park her Mercedes-Benz SUV. Police said Stawicki shot the 52-year-old Bellevue woman in the head, killing her, and took her SUV.
Stawicki then drove Leonidas' SUV to West Seattle and abandoned it in the Delridge neighborhood around noon, according to police.
But it would be nearly four hours before Stawicki would fatally shoot himself as police closed in.
During that time, Stawicki went to the West Seattle Nursery and Garden Center, 5275 California Ave. S.W., where he purchased a blueberry bush and two packets of seeds around 1:40 p.m., according to nursery manager, Marcia Bruno. He then left the bush, seeds and an unsigned thank you card on the porch of a former teacher, Patricia Guenther.
Bruno said that one of her employees remembered the man who purchased the blueberry bush as being tall, thin and giving off "a weird vibe."
"He knew what he was buying. He seemed indecisive, but he didn't seem jumpy," said Bruno, who was told by police that the customer had been Stawicki.
Guenther, who wasn't home when Stawicki left the items, released a statement through Seattle Public Schools this week. Guenther did not say how she learned that Stawicki was responsible for the gift.
"There was no identifying information on the items and I did not know who left them there. I later learned that these items were purchased by Ian Stawicki, the shooter in the recent North Seattle and First Hill shootings, who was a former student of mine," Guenther's statement said. "I have not had contact with Ian Stawicki since he was in my Summit K-12 School classroom almost 25 years ago, and I was surprised to learn that he was the source of the bag that was left on my porch."
Guenther is now an assistant principal at Washington Middle School. In her statement, Guenther said she turned over the items to Seattle police, who contacted Bruno.
"We're still in shock just to think what could have happened," Bruno said.
About two hours after the plant was purchased, an undercover Seattle police officer spotted Stawicki in West Seattle and called for backup. When uniformed officers and detectives approached him, Stawicki knelt on the sidewalk and shot himself in the head just before 4 p.m., police said.
After the shootings the Stawicki family asked police about the truck and didn't receive any answers. Three days after the shootings, Walt Stawicki went to Cafe Racer and Town Hall to search for the truck.
Walt Stawicki believes his son abandoned it in the University District, unlocked with the keys inside, and it was stolen. He's unsure how his son got to First Hill.
Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said Wednesday that "it's still unclear" how Stawicki got from the University District to downtown Seattle.
Last week, police said no one has come forward to say they had given Stawicki a ride, although one woman told police he attempted to flag her down near Cafe Racer, but she declined to stop.
Police have not been able to find surveillance videos from Metro Transit buses that would confirm whether Stawicki may have gotten on a bus.
Walt Stawicki said he hadn't heard about the blueberry bush being purchased, nor did Guenther's name ring a bell. In the week since the violence, the Stawicki family said it has received love and support from friends, people in the community and those who knew Ian in his better times.
Walt Stawicki said the past week has been a struggle.
"It's hard with all the emotions going ... ; we're raw," he said.
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.