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Originally published Monday, December 3, 2012 at 8:40 PM

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Man arrested in Montana in 1996 killing of Kirkland woman

King County sheriff's detectives have arrested a Montana man in the killing of Sandi Johnson, a Kirkland mother of two who went missing in 1996.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Sixteen years after a Kirkland mother went missing, King County sheriff's detectives have arrested a Montana man suspected of killing her and leaving her body near a Pierce County highway.

Clifford Everell Reed, 59, was arrested without incident Monday at his Victor, Mont., home. Reed was first arrested in 1997 in connection with the disappearance of his former co-worker Sandi Johnson, a 28-year-old mother of two, a son and a daughter, when she went missing April 26, 1996.

On the day she disappeared, Johnson left her Kirkland home to run errands and meet a friend for lunch at Bellevue Square. She had told friends she planned to spend the day preparing for her son's two birthday parties that weekend.

But she never made it to lunch, didn't pick up her children from a baby-sitter that evening, and didn't make it to her son's birthday party the next day.

Two days later, Johnson's wallet was found in the parking lot of a Rainier Valley hardware store, 20 miles from her home. Two days after that, her station wagon was found in a grocery-store parking lot near Tukwila. Police found the keys in the ignition and Johnson's cellphone in plain view. The car doors were unlocked.

In 2004, transit workers found her skeletal remains near Highway 410 in Pierce County.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which has asked that Reed be held on a $5 million arrest warrant, also charged him with second-degree murder Monday.

Before Johnson went missing, Reed would tell friends and neighbors he had an active sexual relationship with her and that they would eventually marry, according to charging papers. Johnson worked with Reed at Bowen Scarff Ford in Kent at the time of her disappearance. After she went missing, he denied any romantic relationship.

"In reality, Sandi did not return his affections, denied any romantic relationship, and told friends Reed needed to leave her alone," Detective Jim Allen wrote in the charging documents.

The Sheriff's Office is working to extradite Reed to King County, a process that can take several weeks.

If he is successfully extradited, it looks as if the Prosecuting Attorney's Office will be waiting to give the case its attention: King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is already praising the work done by the Sheriff's Office cold-case squad, which is scheduled to shut down at the end of this month.

"This case shows the true value of a cold-case detective squad," Satterberg said in a news release. "The families of victims of unsolved murders need to know that we will never give up seeking justice for them."

It isn't clear what new evidence led to Reed's arrest Monday. Much of the circumstantial evidence in the charging documents cites detective interviews with family and friends of Johnson and Reed from 1996 and 1997. Sgt. Jesse Anderson of the Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit said details that made this investigation of Reed different from the one that resulted in his 1997 arrest would be released later as the case progresses.

Information from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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