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Originally published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:38 PM

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Sex predator charged in 1980 strangulation of Bellevue woman

Bellevue police Wednesday announced that a 56-year-old sexual predator who is behind bars on McNeil Island has been arrested in connection with an unsolved rape and murder from 1980.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Susan Lowe told her roommate she planned to have a quiet night at home and watch the Sonics game.

But that night, April 23, 1980, the 19-year-old woman was violently attacked inside their apartment near Bellevue College. The next morning, her roommate found her nude in bed; she had been strangled with a pair of pantyhose, according to a Bellevue police report.

A neighbor told investigators they had heard a loud knock on Lowe's front door and a banging noise "like something hitting the wall." Neighbors also reported hearing a muffled scream while they were watching "Charlie's Angels" on TV between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

No one called for help that night, police said.

Shortly after Lowe's slaying, a $1,000 reward was offered for information, but it wasn't until last May that investigators had a major break in the case. Scientists from the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory linked biological evidence found inside Lowe's bedroom with a convicted sex predator named Michael Allen Halgren, according to court charges.

Halgren was 23 when Lowe was slain and lived about three blocks from her apartment, police said.

On Wednesday, Halgren, now 56 and with a long history of sex crimes, was charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison, said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Richardson.

Halgren's name was never associated with the case until last year. He has been a patient at the Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island since 2002, prosecutors said.

Bellevue police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate said it wasn't until recently that DNA was collected from patients at the SCC.

Halgren was civilly committed after being convicted of first-degree rape, stemming from a 1989 sexual assault on a woman in Bellevue, and of unlawful imprisonment after he abducted a prostitute in Seattle in 1995, according to charges.

According to the murder charges, doctors at the McNeil Island facility learned over the years that Halgren had peeped through women's windows when he was a teen, exposed himself to nearly 40 women in his early 20s and raped more than 20 women, mainly prostitutes, after being discharged from the military in 1975.

He also told doctors he raped a relative after graduating from high school and raped three more women in 1974, 1979 and 1980, according to charging paperwork.

When questioned about Lowe, Halgren said he did not ever date her nor did he recognize her photograph, charges said.

"This murder was calculated and cold," Richardson wrote in charges. "Its facts, the defendant's criminal history and his admission to numerous other violent sex offenses warrant a finding that no bail be allowed."

Lowe's family could not be reached for comment.

Halgren is to be arraigned Jan. 23.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed

to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

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