Washington woman abducted for ransom found dead

Associated Press

Kennewick, Wash. — A 69-year-old woman reportedly abducted for ransom in southeastern Washington state has been found dead — two days after police agreed to pay the money and arrested someone they said was involved.

The body of Sandra Harris was found by a motorist midday Sunday in the arid scrubland along a road south of Kennewick, off Interstate 82, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office said it wasn’t immediately clear how she died.

Harris was kidnapped Friday from her Kennewick home by someone she knew, police said. The kidnapper used Harris’ cellphone to call the victim’s husband, Randy Harris, at work and demanded an undisclosed amount of money, they said.

The FBI joined local police in contacting the suspect and negotiating for several hours before agreeing to meet up in rural Franklin County on Friday night to pay the ransom, Kennewick police said. Shortly afterward, a SWAT team arrested the suspect, Theresa Wiltse, 49, of Connell, near the tiny community of Eltopia. She was driving a rental car with California plates.

With Wiltse being the sole occupant of the car, investigators continued efforts to find Harris, police said.

“It was not a random abduction,” Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg told the Tri-City Herald on Saturday. “I don’t want people to be in fear in the community.”

The department did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday on the discovery of Harris’ body.

Wiltse was booked for investigation of kidnapping. It was not immediately clear if she had obtained a lawyer.