Mike and Mary Beth Emert lived in Redmond, Washington, and they had a dream life. They were also prosperous partners in the competitive world of Seattle-area real estate. But on January 4, 2001, their dream life together was shattered when Mary Beth received a call from her mother that Mike had been murdered. Join us as we explore the investigation into this mysterious case.
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There are plenty of dangerous jobs in this world, I would have never guessed that real estate agent was one of these dangerous jobs, that was until I began writing this story. Previously, this season we told you the story of real estate agent Lindsay Buziak and her mysterious murder while showing a couple a house, now I am going to tell you another story about a real estate agent and his untimely death.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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Many times, we find one true crime story wrapped up inside of another true crime story, like the many layers inside of an onion. I am going to start our story today, at one of the many inner layers of this story, and this story begins cloaked under the darkness of night, at 10:30PM on March 26th, 2010. Dr. Craig McAllister and his 20-year-old son, Ryan, who was at home, visiting his parents from college, pulled up to the McAllister’s home, a beautiful home sitting on the majestic Lake Washington. Dr. McAllister was an orthopedic surgeon, who had done very well for his family. As they approached the house, Dr. McAllister parallel parked out on the street, earlier that day, they had received a large delivery of pine bark mulch, which was now piled in the driveway. Dr. McAllister and Ryan, were joking and in great spirits as they walked the short distance from the street to the home’s front door, but just as the two men were approaching the large mulch pile in the homes’ driveway, a masked man rose from behind the pile in the driveway, like a shadowy figure in a scary movie. The man spoke in a relaxed voice and he told the two men to “Just relax”, this shadowy figure said that he had a gun, but if they cooperated, no one would get hurt. Craig McAllister stood still, but he was not standing in shock, he was focused, taking in everything about the situation happening around him. Who was this man in his driveway? If this was a normal break in, when two adult men showed up an average burglar would have run away, but this man had not. Why? If this man is not running, it is because what he wants is inside of the house, but what was inside of the house? Craig McAllister’s wife, Stacey and 13-year-old daughter, Lauren were inside of the house and Craig was going to guarantee that this man, never reached them.
Craig McAllister sprang into action, lunging at the dark figure and tackling the man to the ground. The two men began wrestling and the shadowy figure produced an object that lit up the area around the men, each time the electric blue arcs shot out of it. The would-be home invader began to shock Craig over and over with a stun gun, but still Craig was prevailing in the fight, at one point during their tussle, Craig ripped the black ski mask from the man’s face. Ryan bolted for a neighbor’s house; he knew he needed to call 911 as his father was subduing this burglar. Just as Craig began to gain control over the man, another man in a black ski mask appeared from the side of the house, Craig was made aware of his presence as the man pistol whipped Craig from behind. Craig collapsed to the ground, blood ran warm from behind his left ear. The two men left Craig where he lay in his own driveway and both men rushed to the front door of the house, furiously kicking and pounding on the door, their mighty effort to enter the dwelling. Stacey, was inside of the house, when she suddenly began hearing pounding on the front door of the home. She knew her husband and son were due home any time now, so she walked to the front door and just opened it, to see what all of the commotion was about. As soon as the front door flew open, Stacey saw standing before her, two men, one in a black ski mask, Stacey screamed and slammed the door closed, flipping the deadbolt in almost one fluid action, the men did not even have time to react before the door was already closed and locked, right in their faces. She then ran for the phone and called 911.
When the police arrived at the house, the two masked men were long gone. The Sheriff’s department used their K-9 team as well as a helicopter with heat-seeking equipment, but they failed to locate the two men. The only clue left was the ski mask, Craig had ripped off of one of the attacker’s heads. DNA evidence from this mask would eventually reveal who this mysterious man was and confirm Dr. Craig McAllister’s instincts, that this was no typical home invasion.
Mike Emert grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, a town whose written history began with the Lewis and Clark Expedition encountering the Walla Walla people at the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Mike was born on November 13th, 1960 to his father Angelo Locati and his mother Sondra Emert, who would end up divorcing when Mike was just 6-years-old. After the couple divorced, Mike lived with his mother Sondra and he also began going by his mother’s maiden name Emert. Mike lived a typical life in his adolescents and he attended the Walla Walla High School until his graduation in 1979. Post-graduation, Mike went on to attend Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.
After graduating from college, Mike began running his own business called Superior Seed Co. Mike had an uncle who was a successful realtor and this career intrigued Mike, so in 1991, Mike Emert began working at the Windemere Real Estate agency as a real estate agent. Mike moved from the seat of Washington in Walla Walla, further west, toward the booming city of Seattle, the real estate market here was on fire and Mike knew this is where he needed to be as he made a name for himself in a highly-competitive field.
It was here that Mike Emert’s career in real estate really began to soar, customers loved Mike and he was respected by all of his colleagues. Mike was given the “Realtor of the Year” awards from his company and he was the top Puget Sound Real Estate Professional in both 1998 and 1999. Like I said, he was at the top of his game and the new booming tech market around Seattle was flooding the area with new all cash buyers, Mike was even selling homes listed at over $1 million dollars.
On top of being a great real estate agent, Mike was also quite a charming guy and he soon caught the eye of a woman named Mary Beth Chanderlong, who also worked in real estate. The two had begun their romantic escapades during the mid-1990s and by 1996, the couple was married. Everyone in the couple’s orbit described them as soul mates, they loved one another fiercely. Mary Beth did have a daughter from a former relationship who was named Lauren. Mike treated Lauren like she was his very own daughter, he attended her sporting events, and he volunteered as a basketball coach for Lauren’s team in middle school. But for all of the love the couple had to give Lauren, the couple would never have another child together as a couple.
As the couple’s success continued in their field, they decided to move to the area of Redmond, this is approximately 15 miles east of Seattle, so they are still in the same area, selling the same real estate. Redmond is the town where Microsoft calls home, so you know there is a lot of money being spent on homes in this prominent area of the state.
A new client contacted Mike Emert directly and this new client told Mike that they were interested in a home in the Eastside area, near Woodinville, this is an area a bit further outside of the city limits, it’s approximately a 10-minute drive from Kirkland. Mike set up a meeting with this new client at a shopping mall not far from his home and office, which were both located in Kirkland, this meeting was set for January 3rd, 2001.
This new client, this unknown male, had one house in particular that he was interested in seeing, so Mike put that home at the top of the list to show this new client. Mike called the agent representing the house and made an appointment for a showing that very day. This home was beautifully built, and located in the 19500 block of 157th Place Northeast in Woodinville. The house was 3 stories tall and the exterior of the home was composed of bricks and beige, it had a listing price of $589,000. Mike met this new client, who he referred to as Steve in his appointment book, at the shopping mall and together the two men traveled to the house.
The house was set back from the road at the end of a cul-de-sac, this was an isolated property that could not be easily seen by neighbors. After they arrived, the two men toured the house, Mike could tell that they man’s interest was piqued, he seemed to really like the house and why wouldn’t he, the man had picked out the house himself. Mike thought to himself, maybe this guy will just buy this house quickly and he could move on to another client. After they completed the tour, the two men drove back to the mall where they had met.
After Mike went home for the day, he did as most people do and he began to download his day to his other half, his wife, his love. Mike told Mary Beth that the man he had met with today was slightly odd. The man was in his early 50’s, Mike estimated, and he walked with a limp, assisted by a walking cane, the man also spoke with a strange East Coast accent that Mike could not quite place. Mike went on to tell Mary Beth that the man had recently relocated to Washington from Northern California, he was currently couch surfing with friends while he was house shopping. This conversation, did not seem out of the ordinary to Mary Beth, they both worked in real estate and in their line of business you meet quite a few strange individuals, this was the couple’s normal routine, come home and tell your spouse about all of the strange and interesting points of your day. Because of this, Mary Beth did not even think about pushing for additional details. However, the next day, on Thursday, January 4th, 2001, Mary Beth wished that she knew a lot more than she had learned the night before.
The day began like any other, the couple woke up and began getting ready for work. Mike took a shower and dressed, he then eats breakfast and headed off to work, Mary Beth followed the same routine. When Mike Emert arrived at work on this day, his coworkers say that he appeared perfectly fine, Mike even joked with one of the guys in the office that he had a meeting that day with some weird dude who had called him out of the blue. In Mark’s Day planner he made a note that he was meeting with a client named Steven, but as I said, this was a client Mike took on through a direct phone call, no communications had taken place between this Steve character and the Windemere relator’s office.
On this day, Thursday, January 4th, 2001, Mike once again met up with this Steve in the parking lot of the shopping mall called Kirkland Park Place. This was the second time Mike was meeting with this client at this shopping mall instead of the office or the house the client wanted to tour, which is the customary process while house shopping with a real estate agent. Yes, meeting a client at a third-party location was a red flag, this is almost like the true crime rule, never let them take you to a second location. But never the less, the two men, once again met up at the mall on this morning around 11:30am. After the two men arrived at the mall parking lot, they both climbed into Mike’s Black Cadillac Escalade and they headed back to the same property on 157th Place Northeast in Woodinville. What took place next, between these two men, remains a mystery to this very day.
It was Thursday, January 4th, 2001 and Gail Garland decided to head back home for her lunch break at work, it was 12:30 pm and she knew that her home, which she had just recently listed for sale, was being shown to a potential buyer that morning. Gail knew that the showing was scheduled early enough in the morning that the potential buyers would be long gone before she made it home for lunch. Gail arrived home at 12:40 pm, and just as she expected, there were no cars present, a good sign that the real estate agent had already come and gone with his client. Gail pulled into her driveway, parked her car and then she opened the garage door to enter her home, just like so many of us do every day. Nothing seemed amiss as Gail walked through her garage, but as she entered her home, her Spidey senses began to tingle and from the corner of her eye, something caught her attention, a sliver of light which seemed out of place. Gail then realized that this misplaced fractal of luminescence was emanating from a slight crack, where the front door was standing faintly ajar. Now Gail’s heart began to quicken, she walked quickly to the front door, to secure her sanctuary and as she passed through her home, she began hearing a strange sound.
Gail stopped after closing the front door and she listened intently in the quiet house, trying to decipher what this sound was, it only took her a moment to realize that the sound was water running in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Gail was certain that there had been no cars or other vehicles anywhere close to her home when she arrived, so there was no reason for her to believe that someone would still be inside of her house, so she began making her way up the stairs, ever so slowly, being careful not to let the stairs creek under her feet. When Gail reached the final few stairs, she saw something that made her heart change from racing in her chest to pounding, like it was trying to escape her body. There on the last few stairs was a trail of blood droplets, leading directly into the hallway bathroom. The door to the bathroom stood open and Gail could now tell that this was also the source of the sound of running water. Gail continued toward the open bathroom door, still making her way slowly down the hallway, as she arrived at the door, she apprehensively peered around the door frame and she was devastated by what she saw.
There in her bathroom was Mike Emert, laying in the bathtub, lifeless. Gail said that she could see that Mike had bruises and lacerations all over, the sound of running water was from the shower, which was spraying Mike’s body as lay there in the tub, the nearby sink also had its tap left on. Gail ran back down the stairs and she called 911.
The police called the real estate office where Mike Emert worked, they needed to locate his next-of-kin, I guess in some ways it was lucky that they called his work to locate his relatives, because sitting right there in the same real estate office was Mike’s mother-in-law, who also worked at his office. After receiving some of the worst news of her life, she now had to call her own daughter, Mike’s wife, to break the news.
Mary Beth Emert was driving when she received a call from her mom and she could not process the information her mother was trying to tell her, Mary Beth later said, “The realization that he was gone started to sink in while I was still on the telephone with my mom, but still, still hoping that, you know, maybe he was alive and maybe they were wrong, you know. Maybe it wasn't Mike. And I think it was just in shock and disbelief."
Both the local police department and the local sheriff’s department quickly responded to the crime scene. Many of these police officers had never investigated a homicide before, this being Woodinville’s first murder since 1997. The officers from the King County Sheriff’s department would assist, as they had a higher level of experience investigating homicides.
The home owner, Gail Garland told the investigators what she knew to be true, the timeline for the showing of her home that morning, what time she had arrived home for lunch and what she had experienced after she arrived home, it had been traumatizing to the woman.
Based on everything else they had learned; the police came up with their hypothesis about what they believed had taken place on this day. They believed that Mike Emert had, once again, come to show this, enigmatic Steven the house, as the two men toured the home, they walked into one of the upstairs bedrooms, as they men went to leave the room, with Mike leading the way, he was struck from behind. This blow was probably not fatal, but it more than likely either subdued Mike or incapacitated him completely. From here the assailant viciously beat Mike and then he stabbed him repeatedly until he was deceased. We will later find that Mike was stabbed 19 times during this attack.
After Mike Emert was likely already dead, Steven dragged Mike’s lifeless body from this bedroom into the bathroom down the hall where Gail would eventually discover him, laying face-down in the tub, the water from the shower splashing all over his body. They surmised that the attacker had left the water running in the sink, after they cleaned their hands, just as an added precaution, to make sure all of the DNA evidence was cleanly washed away. And whatever plan this Steven had, must have worked, because police investigators could not locate any DNA in the house, besides Mikes, and Gail’s of course, she lived there. The scene of the crime had seemingly been wiped perfectly clean.
There was other evidence to be gathered, however; for example; things had been taken that would have been on Mike’s person at the time he was killed; his wallet, cell phone, wedding ring and his watch where all gone. Mike’s wedding ring was worth a good amount of money, it was a heavy gold band with three diamonds laid across the top in a horizontal row, that along with Mikes, $3,000 Breitling watch, could be a motive for murder, not a great motive, but it was something to start with. But they did not believe the motive was straight up robbery, it was too planned out. They thought of aggravating factors such as jealousy or a work rival, then they stumbled onto one of their top ideas, what if this had been a professional hit, a killer for hire job.
One giant missing piece of evidence was Mike’s black Cadillac Escalade, it was not at the crime scene, so had the killer taken the car when he left, did Mike accidentally provide his own killer with an escape vehicle? They soon got their answer when a black Escalade, registered to Mike Emert was found abandoned at the Kirkland Park Place shopping mall, the same location Mike had connected with his new devious client twice in the past two days. Police assumed that the killer had simply taken Mike’s vehicle and returned to the mall parking lot where his own vehicle awaited his return.
When the vehicle was examined by the forensics team, they discovered that the killer had not been as careful inside of the vehicle, as he had been inside of the house. They located samples of blood and skin, and the DNA was not included in the excluded DNA samples from known family and friends of Mike Emert. The samples were entered into CODIS, or the FBI’s DNA database in 2001.
Just one day after the murder, police located Mike Emert’s missing wallet. At the ferry terminal, Pier 52, there was Mike’s wallet just sitting on top of a payphone, the only thing missing was Mike’s ATM card. The card had also already been used at a local ATM. The next piece of missing evidence to be recovered was Mike’s cell phone. The investigators did not divulge any details about the recovery of the phone, they did relinquish this, the phone had been used after Mike’s murder to make several outgoing phone calls. No other details were included. Mike’s diamond laden wedding band and his luxurious Breitling watch, have never been recovered.
After developing their theories and fleshing out the evidence they had collected thus far, the detectives soon honed in on their first possible suspect. Their first suspect was kind of low-hanging-fruit, if you ask me, an unhoused man, who frequented the Kirkland Park Place mall, where police knew Mike had met Steven, twice before he was killed. However, once you hear all of the small things put together, I guess you can understand why the police needed to look more closely at this man. This man walked with a cane, due to his pronounced limp, just like Mike’s description of Steven. The man fit the physical description Mike had described to his colleagues and to his wife and this unhoused man was a Vietnam veteran, who had worked as a counselor; these were all things in Mike’s description of who Steven was, in just the two day he had known the man. Just two days before he died.
In the United States of America, just like in many countries around the world, we have a massive problem with homelessness, the unhoused are viewed by many as the dregs of society, people who have gotten themselves into their positions in life purely based on their own actions. Because of these people’s situations, we then also view them as maybe dishonest or more likely to be running a scam or some other deceitful venture. As an example, when I was in high school, our sociology class performed a social experiment, where we disguised an adult, let me preface this by saying, yes, this was an adult, anyway, dressed this adult up as an unhoused person, and they went panhandling at the corner of our local Walmart. They held a sign that said something I can no longer remember and they collected money from people as they sat in their car at the red light, eating the fresh fries at the top of the bag as they try to drive home before all of the take-out food gets cold, you know, you have been there. So, our adult volunteer stood out on this corner for 8 hours a day for a full week and at the end of the week do you want to know what we learned? Or at least the only thing that has stuck with me in the many years since I attended high school? This, fake, unhoused person, standing on a street corner holding a small cardboard sign made an average of $16.00 per hour for their 8-hour day. And this was at a time when the federal minimum wage was $4.15. The point of this story is this, do you know what I am thinking every time I sit at the red light, eating the fresh fries from the top of the to go bag and a man is standing next to my car holding a sign that says “something, something, something, God Bless”? I am thinking, does this person make more per hour than me? And that is something that was instilled in me from my youth, when I was in high school. I was taught to look away from these people, that what they are doing is a scam, they should get a job, if you can stand on this corner for 8 hours a day holding a sign, you could make hamburgers for 8 hours a day, you could work at the car wash, you could do a lot of things. But the population of our society who are unhoused are not always scammers, they are not always devious, sometimes they have true obstacles on their lives that are preventing them from doing even the simplest things, like obtaining a job.
And now I would like to truly introduce you to the unhoused man from the Kirkland Park Place mall parking lot, Jeffrey John Solo. Jeffrey was in his early 60’s, he was divorced and he was a proud father of four children, most notably his daughter, and legendary soccer player, Hope Solo. Hope is the former goalkeeper for the United States women’s national soccer team. She was on the team from 2000-2016, during her time in the sport Hope won a World Cup Championship and Two Olympic gold medals. Hope Solo is regarded as one of the best female goalkeepers of all time and she currently holds the United States record for the most career clean sheets. If you are not a soccer fan, a goalkeeper is said to keep a clean sheet if they prevent their opponents from scoring during an entire game. Hope was born in Richland, Washington on July 30th, 1981, her father, Jeffrey was in and out of her life during her youth, but while he was around, he always spent time teaching young Hope to play soccer. When Hope turned 7-years-old, her dad stopped at the house to pick her and her brother Marcus up to go to a baseball game. The two kids were excited for a day spent at the baseball stadium with their day, who they never got to see enough. They drove down the highway, but instead of heading east toward Yakima, where the game was going to take place, Jeffrey drove west and he kept driving for three hours, until they arrived in Seattle. Jeffrey checked into a hotel room and the two youngsters began having a great time, it was like they were on vacation with dad. After they had spent several days at the hotel, Hope began to think that something was wrong, it did not seem like they were on vacation anymore, it did not seem like they were supposed to be here at all. As the trio stood on the lobby of a bank in downtown Seattle, they were approached by police officers, who promptly arrested Jeffrey Solo for kidnapping his own children. Despite this somewhat arduous time in the family’s life, Hope would rekindle a close relationship with her father after she began attending the University of Washington.
This was the man police were investigating for the murder of Mike Emert, Jeffrey told the police detectives that he was a conman, but he was no killer. The police file for Jeffrey supported his claims, as he did have convictions for fraud in the late 1970s, but there were no signs of violent crimes in his past. During police interviews, Jeffrey admitted that he had used this scheme, or something kind of like it in the past, he would pose as a potential home buyer in an effort to meet attractive female realtors and real estate agents, but these were romantic endeavors, nothing as devious as murder. Jeffrey continued cooperating with the investigators, he even submitted to a polygraph test, passing with flying colors and he surrendered samples of his blood and hair. In March of 2001, Jeffrey John Solo was cleared as a suspect in the case. Jeffrey’s daughter, Hope was determined to have her father officially cleared of any participation in this case and it was not an easy task, Hope stated, “No matter what he did, he was my father. He helped create the person I am. He showered me with love; he just didn’t know how to be a husband or a father or a responsible member of society.”
So, Jeffrey it turns out is not the killer of Mike Emert, join us next week, on The Secret Sits, as we continue to explore the mysterious murder of Mike Emert. We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.