Sunday, January 31, 2010

Prosecutors: Man dismembered ex-girlfriend after killing


EVERETT - A Gold Bar man charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend after her burned-out car was found is now accused of dismembering her body and disposing of it in a drive around Snohomish County.

Prosecutors say the suspect, Eric Christensen, 40, of Gold Bar asked a friend to drive him around Snohomish County to help dispose of the woman's remains.

The friend eventually contacted investigators and led them to spots were body parts were recovered, prosecutors say.

Christensen was charged Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court with first-degree murder in the slaying of 35-year-old Sherry Harlan. He previously was ordered held in Snohomish County jail on $2 million bail.

Prosecutors say Harlan was killed sometime between Jan. 2 and 3 after Christensen found a text message from another man on her cellphone.

Court papers say Christensen told police the message was evidence that Harlan had broken a "Wiccan blood oath" she had made to break off a relationship with the other man.

Harlan was reported missing Jan. 5 after she failed to show up for her job at a JCPenney store.

Her burned-out 1989 Nissan Sentra was found Jan. 7 in the Reiter Pit area near Gold Bar. Detectives later said human remains were found inside the car.

During the initial investigation, detectives began focusing on Christensen based on information from friends and neighbors who said Harlan told them her boyfriend had beaten her before.

She told friends she was afraid to break up with him for fear he would come after her and kill her.

Another neighbor reported hearing yelling and fighting on Jan. 2 that appeared to come from Harlan's apartment.

On Jan. 6, detectives searched Christensen's home and car and discovered bloody clothing that appears to belong to him. He also had numerous scratches on his face, forearms, shoulder and lower back, and a stab wound on his right knee.

Christensen initially was arrested and booked Jan. 7 into the Snohomish County Jail for failure to register as a sex offender. He has a 1990 conviction in Oregon for first-degree sexual abuse and is classified as a Level 1 sex offender.

He later was charged with second-degree murder, and the charge was increased Friday to first-degree murder.

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