The Secret Sits

The Mysterious Murder of Mike Emert: Part 2

February 16, 2023 John W. Dodson Season 2 Episode 48
The Secret Sits
The Mysterious Murder of Mike Emert: Part 2
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Show Notes Transcript

This is Part 2 of our story covering the Mysterious Murder of Miker Emert.

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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[Underscore Music]

Previously on The Secret Sits, a successful real estate agent named Mike Emert was found brutally murdered inside of a home located in Woodinville, Washington which he had been showing to a new client, a client who no one in Mike’s inner circle has been able to identify.  And that is where we find ourselves while we pick up our story today.

[Theme Music Start]

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.

[Theme Music Play Out]

[Under Score Music]

After Police cleared Jeffrey John Solo of Mike Emert’s murder, their investigation continued and they began to focus in on the motive behind the savage killing.  The investigators began delving into Mike’s financial situation, after all, money is the root of all evil.  And as they worked their way through Mike’s finances, they began spreading their investigative tentacles into the lives of Mike’s friends and family members.  Did anyone in Mike’s inner circle have a reason for him to be dead?  Who would benefit the most from Mike’s demise?  Did anyone just take out a new life insurance policy on Mike?  We all know what that means.  So, the King County Sheriff’s Office conducted an exhaustive number of interviews with anyone and everyone who they could connect to Mike Emert’s life and after that detective Jon Holland stated, “While conducting hundreds of interviews with people, even going back 10 years ago, and a prior business that he was involved in, we have not interviewed anybody that can establish why somebody would want to have Mike Emert killed."

Of course, this investigation placed Mike’s wife, Mary Beth, under a microscope, in the end, nothing was found and Mary Beth could continue to grieve outside of the watchful eye of the King County Sheriff’s office.  Detective Jon Holland gave a small clue when he said, “Whoever did it is at least experienced.”  So, the public could now ascertain that the police were now looking for a career criminal or someone with some sort of specialized training.  The premeditation in this crime was slapping the detectives right in their faces and so, they began to lean into their professional hitman theory.  

Whoever it was that made an appointment with Mike, this man Mike referred to as Steven in his day planner, had used payphones to make his initial contact with Mike.  This Steven had never been seen by, nor spoken to any of Mike’s co-workers, nor his friends or family and each time he had contacted Mike, he had called from a different payphone.

Of course, the house that Steven had picked was done so on purpose, it was extremely isolated from any prying neighbors.  Detective Jim Doyon, who also worked on the Green River Killer case, which we covered during Season One of The Secret Sits, spoke to the press concerning the killer’s MO. “It appears that he may have reconnoitered and actually singled out this home as the best place to assault Mike. Now that suggests some sophisticated criminal thinking going on."

The things that police learned from their initial conversations with Mike’s co-workers and from his wife, about the physical aspects of the suspect, were what they had focused on so far in the investigation, the man walked with a pronounced limp and he was assisted by the use of a cane.  But what if all of that was false, not false like everyone was lying, but false as in…he was faking it. You know, an old Scooby Doo Switcharoo, the ghost was actually ol’ Mister Washburn, the school’s janitor it was a disguise the whole time.  And on top of that, the helpless old man routine would put Mike off of his guard, allowing the assassin to attack.  Mike was around 6 feet tall and he weighed in at around 185 pounds – 190 on thanksgiving, and he was is very good physical condition.  The man who overpowered Mike had to have been stronger than this old man with a cane, even if Mike was struck from behind in one of the bedrooms.  The killer then continued to beat the hell out of Mike and stab him over and over and over again.  After Mike’s life had been taken from his, this old man with a cane then picked up all 185 pounds of Mike Emert and carried him eighteen feet, out of the bedroom door, down the hallway, and into the bathroom, then they placed this man into the bathtub, where he was left to be found by Gail Garland when she returned home for her lunch break.  And in doing all of this, all of these arduous tasks, all of this lifting and stabbing….and Mr. in his 50’s Steven with a limp and a cane, did not leave one speck, not one fiber of evidence behind?  Interesting.

Obviously, none of this was adding up to the detectives, so the next approach the took was to closely examine the weapon used by the attacker.  During the autopsy, the medical examiner counted the number of stab wounds, 19 in total and he determined that the knife that the killer had used was a long knife with a non-serrated blade…but what it the weapon that killed Mike Emert was not a knife at all?  What if it was a sword?  The detectives began to hypothesize that Steven’s cane was actually a rouse and in actuality it contained the murder weapon, a cleverly hidden sword.

Once again, I give you the words of Detective Jim Doyon, “I think it's possible that the weapon was this cane. And the cane might have been one of these sword canes or a cane with a knife in it. So maybe the initial blitz assault to stun Mike was striking Mike with the cane from behind. The knife portion of the cane was used to kill Mike. Mike was nearly six feet tall, weighed 187 pounds. I think we have an offender here that was able to overcome a man of Mike's stature and then drag his body perhaps about 18 feet from one room to where he came to rest. The water in the shower was turned on, and the two faucets in the vanity sinks were found running. That, to me, speaks of an attempt to get rid of any trace evidence. Hairs, fibers, things like that would be washed down the drain. He's cleaning his hands off in the sink, cleaning the weapon off in the sink. This was probably not this individual's first murder, or certainly not his first violent assault."

The DNA results came back, from the blood and skin found in Mike’s Cadillac Escalade and there were no matches found in CODIS, this guy was good.  And as hard as they searched, as many theories as they could toy around with, they could never come up with a motive, Sergeant John Urquhart, of the King County Sheriff's Office, stated: "What's most unusual about this case is we still don't have a motive. Usually in these cases there's something to do with sex, drugs, or money. It's just not there."

The tragic death of Mike Emert has been felt the most by his now widow Mary Beth, Mike was her soul mate who was suddenly ripped from her life, she still wishes for closure and to know who murdered her husband, the father of her child, her soulmate, her joy, Mary Beth said, "It's just like being blown up from the inside out. I do feel not having that closure is definitely standing in the way of me saying my final goodbye to Mike."

Local real estate organizations got together and raised $50,000 as a reward for finding Mike’s killer.  One good thing to come from this tragic case came right from Mike’s boss at Windemere real-estate who said, “Mike’s death made us realize we needed to take our safety precautions to an entirely different level.”  And I will say, after covering this case and the Lindsay Buziack case which we covered on The Secret Sits, Season 2 Episode 20, Real Estate Agents needs security, how are you going to these big empty houses with people you don’t even know and then walking in and shutting the door.  This may be one of the most unsafe jobs, ever, I do not understand how this is ok, but I digress.  

After Mike’s murder, some action was taken when the Washington State Real Estate Safety Council was established following this case.  This project was aimed at finding initiatives to keep real estate agents safe while they are working.  Part of these new protections included a new requirement for all clients to leave a driver’s license or their personal set of keys in the real estate office while they were being shown a property.  Third party location meetings where also strictly forbidden; all clients where now required to meet at the real estate office before showings.  And some people may find these extra steps annoying, but they are there for a reason, and that reason is Mike Emert.

The unsolved case of Real Estate Agent Mike Emert became known in pop culture as it appeared on an episode of the Television show Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by the legendary Robert Stack.  The episode did not receive very many views however, because Mike Emert’s episode of Unsolved Mysteries aired on September 12th, 2001, which just so happens to be, The Secret Sits’ own sound designer Gabriel Dodson’s birthday, and it was also the day immediately following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 at the World Trade Center and other locations around the United States, no body showed up to Gabriel’s birthday party that year and no body watched Mike Emert’s episode of Unsolved Mysteries. 

Three years after Mike’s murder detective Jon Holland said they had no leads, nothing to go on, "This person that he met with, we have no idea who that is. We don't even know if that's the real name of the person, and we don't know how accurate that description is. We don't really have a direction to go."

As the years slowly began to pass and Mary Beth continued to raise the couple’s little boy, now as a single mother, she remained hopeful that someday her husband’s murder would be brought to justice, “I'm trying to be patient, and I just know someday they'll call and have good news for me. I know when they catch someone, I'll be reliving the whole thing. But I'm so ready to go and fight for justice for Mike."

But nothing much did happen in the case, for a very long time, and I am talking a decade.  They could not find anything to give them a clue as to who the mysterious old man had been, or if he was even the killer in the first place.  Even the DNA evidence, sitting in CODIS for over 10 years at this point had never matched with any DNA in the database, not any when it was entered and not any that had been entered in the 13 years since the crime, whoever committed this crime had never been caught for anything violent before or after this case.  

As most cold cases go, as they sit on a shelf, they grow colder and colder.  Less and less people who actually knew Mike still worked in the business and now his name was more involved in watercooler talk about that crazy case that made them take safety seriously.  

An unlikely break in the case came in September of 2011 when Mary Beth’s phone began to ring, she answered the phone and an officer on the other end of the phone informed her that they had found a quote, rock solid DNA match. End quote.

[Music Change]

We have a major problem in the United States of America with public relations between the police and the public.  While I was in college, I actually worked for my local police department as a 3rd shift building security person, and I say person and not officer because we were not officers, we just had walky-talkies and the will to stay awake until the sun came up.  But during this time in my life I became very close with everyone at our police force, the officers were kind and joyful while performing their sometimes dangerous jobs, the dispatchers were sweet and protective, my point is that I know from my own personal experiences that there are police officers who are not bad apples, I know that there are police officers who are not racist, I know that there are police officers who are not power hungry meat heads, I know that there are also police officers who are all of those things.  And that is going to bring us to the next suspect in our story.

Gary Krueger was enlisted in the United States Navy before he even walked on the stage and shook a hand for his high school diploma.  He was 18-years-old, born on January 28th, 1948 and here he was graduating from Lincoln High School in Seattle the year was 1967.  By November of this same year, Gary Krueger was put on a plane and shipped off to fight in the Vietnam War.  After Gary arrived in the hot and humid Vietnamese jungle, he volunteered to move to the US Marine Corps where he trained to become part of the Combined Action Group.  The Combined Action Group was a group of specialized solders and they performed community services while in Vietnam, they also performed experiments on the people of Vietnam in efforts to help destabilize the region and help the US and its allies win the war.  This group which included our now 19-year-old Gary Krueger ran extensive programs of psychological warfare during the Vietnam War.  One way that this group performed experiments on the Vietnamese people was through PsyOps or psychological operations, but what is an PsyOps?  The term is used to denote any action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people.  Ok, so you do something to make another group of people feel, some sort of way.  Well, here is what Gary Krueger’s unit did during the war, to the family of people they helped during the day through community service.  Loud Speakers would be set up during the dark of night by the Combined Action Group and then they would play tapes of distorted human voices, these demonic sounding voices made the Vietnamese solders think that the dead were returning from their untimely deaths for their revenge and it would drive them crazy, those were the types of experiments Gary’s group were doing.

While Gary was serving in the war, he grew more and more aggressive all while the fuse to his temper grew shorter and shorter.  After living in the hot sticky jungle of Vietnam for two years, Gary Krueger, was returning to Seattle two years older and a completely different man.  After returning from the war in June of 1969, Gary Krueger headed down his second career path when he passed the exam and was given a shield as a brand-new Seattle Police Officer, but will Gary be a good cop or a bad cop, you probably already know the answer, but let’s pretend that you do not.  Gary started as a patrol officer and he eventually added additional talents to his resume such as being a member of the tactical squad, Gary also enlisted in the Army Reserve during this time.  

Gary enjoyed his new career and during the early 1970s he met his future wife, Betty.  After the couple married, Betty quicky became pregnant and 9 months later out came the couple’s one child, a daughter.  Gary and Betty’s relationship hit a rocky road and it was strained for the rest of the years the couple was together.  Gary also began to exhibit some strange behaviors while at work as a police officer, and complaints from citizens were rolling in about Gary.  Gary was hotheaded and short tempered. While on patrol one day, Gary was dispatched to a local hospital.  There was an unruly patient, a Vietnam veteran, just like Gary, who was causing a disturbance, he was being loud and demanding, harassing nurses and causing a general disturbance around the other patients.  When Gary arrived at the hospital, he delt with this fellow veteran with brut force, getting the man into a wrestling restraint to incapacitate the man and bring him under control.  As a result of the force Gary used on this man, he later died and Gary, walked away with out so much as a slap on the wrist.

The problem with the amount of qualified immunity police officers now have in the United States is that officers can no longer be held personally accountable for their actions.  The United States Supreme Court’s ruling on Pierson v. Ray in 1967, allowed qualified immunity to cover police officers.  Qualified immunity is a form of sovereign immunity that protects officials who make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.  Most police officers in the United States are only required to take a 21-week training class to become a police officer, so they cannot be held responsible for many of their own actions due to their qualified immunity. Under qualified immunity, government workers can only be held accountable for violating someone’s rights if a court has previously ruled that it was “clearly established” that those precise actions were unconstitutional. If no such decision exists-or it exists, but just in another jurisdiction-the official is immune, even if the official intentionally, maliciously, or unreasonably violated the law or Constitution.

So, Gary Krueger walked away from his first major incident at a cop, with out learning anything at all and as a result in 1974, Gary and his partner arrested a man and they brought him back to the police station in the back of their patrol car.  When they arrived at the police parking garage, Gary and his partner removed the man from the back of their patrol car and then, for no apparent reason, they savagely beat this man before bringing him inside of the station.  For this, second incident, Gary and his partner, once again, received a slap on the wrist and the man they beat up was given a $3,000 settlement from the civil law suit he filed against the police department.   

Now, Gary Krueger has walked away from two officer involved incidents and he has still learned nothing, then in 1977, Gary Krueger, now 29-years-old is sitting in his patrol car, when suddenly and out of nowhere a man is lunging into the driver’s side window of Gary’s patrol car.  The man is holding a large chef’s knife and his actions make it clear he is attempting to stab Gary, while he was just sitting in his car, Gary pulled out his service revolver and shot the man four time, killing him instantly.  The jury for this case deemed the killing as justified, and it sounds like it may have been, but following this shooting and the subsequent trial, Gary’s health began to rapidly decline, his career began falling to pieces and along with his deteriorating health and career, his marriage quickly followed.

Toward the end of Gary’s career as a police officer he had another dust up with a member of the public.  In 1979, a man on PCP wrestled Gary’s gun away from him and attempted to shoot the officer with his own service revolver.  Gary wrestled his weapon back from the drug filled man, and then he began beating the man and did not stop beating him until other officers arrived on the scene and pulled Gary off of the man.  Following this incident, Gary was removed from active duty and he was ordered to see a psychologist.  One of Gary’s friends and fellow officers, took all of Gary’s guns from his house during this time, just for safe keeping.  

Gary’s psychiatrist called Gary “a liability” and he said that, “Officer Krueger was becoming increasingly unable to control his temper and was becoming physically abusive to suspects and exercising excessive force.”  The president of the Seattle Officers’ Guild vowed that Officer Krueger would be taken off of the streets, if he did not quit.  

After all of this, Gary, finally took the hint and made his exit from the Seattle police force, he also took a disability retirement from the Army Reserves.  Gary had spent his entire adult life wearing a uniform, he was always under someone else’s command, his life had never been, just his own, to do with what he pleased, when ever he pleased.  Now that Gary had those freedoms, he was already disabled, divorced and depraved and Gary was not even forty years old yet.  As his next adventure in life, Gary decided to try his hand at real estate, but this career path did not suit the man and he quickly left this profession.  By 1982, Gary Kreuger was unemployed and bankrupt.  

In 1984, Gary seemed to hit a stride and things started looking up for this embattled man.  Even Gary’s ex-wife Betty saw a difference in the rejuvenated man and they began seeing each other again, later the year, Betty re-married Gary, so he must have been doing something right.  Gary still did not hold a job, but he always had some pocket money on hand, and he was able to afford some small family vacations to hot spots around the United States.  Things progressed swimmingly over the following years, until October 1986.

A patrol officer from Grays Harbor County, Washington witnessed a Chrysler traveling at a high rate of speed, so this officer began to tail the car and he called in the license plate to dispatch.  The car came back as signal 10 – stolen.  The officer lit up the Chrysler and he turned on his sirens, the car, however; did not pull over, instead it increased its speed.  The pursuit continued for  a short time and it ended when the Chrysler crashed and ran off of the road.  The deputy exited his vehicle, service weapon drawn and he approached the crashed vehicle.  Inside of this car, he discovered that Gary Krueger was the driver of the stolen car.   Inside of the car with Gary were two duffle bags containing a lot of incriminating evidence, including; ski masks, rubber Halloween masks, a police scanner and multiple guns.  When all of the evidence was inspected, it pointed police to a recent robbery spree which had gone unsolved between 1984 and 1986.  In all of these robberies, one of the robbers always demanded big money and traveler’s checks.  These robberies has spanned across Washington state in the towns of Aberdeen, Grayland, Freeland, Naselle, Rochester and Graham.  Coincidentally, when Gary Kreuger took his family on these little vacations, he always paid for them with traveler’s checks.

In March of 1987, Gary Krueger, pleaded guilty to two felony charges of armed robbery and his partner, Karl Keller, who began cooperating with investigators early in their investigation, only had to plead guilty to one charge.  For his part in this robbery spree, Gary received a 15-year sentence.  After only serving 5 years of his sentence, Gary was released on good behavior, released into the loving arms of his family, who stood by him through all of these shenanigans.  Now Gary was in his mid-forties, and he still had plenty of time to get his shit together and live a life he could be proud of, but Gary had lived some many decades of his life deep in the darker side of life, the wrong side of the track and he did not know how to live in the sun.

It was January of 1999 when Gary Krueger found himself facing a charge of third degree theft, a misdemeanor charge that did not even carry jail time, this happened in Kirkland, Washington. 

In February of 2001 a bank in Issaquah, Washington was robbed, no one was hurt and the robber only got $3,130.00 for his endeavors.  And then two months later, this same bandit returned to this same bank and held it up, yet again.  This time the outlaw held $6,500.00 in his hand as he walked out the front doors of the bank, but as the man was attempting to flee, he was caught and arrested, the pellet gun he held was no match for the real guns pointed at him by law enforcement.

I am sure, none of you will be surprised when I reveal that the bank robber was our good friend, Gary Krueger.  For this string of robberies, Gary was convicted on two charges and the judge gave Gary a light sentence of only 70 months or just under 6 years, the judge stated that he felt bad about Gary’s PTSD diagnosis and he wanted him to have an opportunity to get his life in order.  Even through all of this, Betty was Gary’s rock and she stood by her husband, who was then her ex-husband, but he was now her husband again and this time, she wasn’t going anywhere.  In 2004, Gary with the good behavior, once again received early parole.  This early release came with a condition though and that was that Gary had to submit a DNA sample to the national database to which Gary agreed.  Upon this agreement, Gary was released from prison, in 2004, when this agreement to submit a DNA sample was made, but the federal parole officers would not get around to obtaining this DNA sample until 2007.  3 years, it took them 3 years to get around to a guy spitting in a tube, it could have been done, should have been done before Gary was allowed to walk out of the prison.  But I digress, so we missed out on 3 years, but now we have the sample and it is going into the database, but wait, hold your horses, this is the FBI and they have an incessant backlog in their forensic testing departments, so the FBI does not get around to testing and entering Gary Krueger’s DNA sample until 2011, 7 year, 7 YEARS before a violent felon with multiple charges for bank robbery’s DNA is tested and entered into the database.

When the time finally came and Gary Krueger’s DNA is entered into CODIS, officials discovered that their delay had in fact been a deadly decision.  

Join us next week on The Secret Sits, as we conclude our story, and the mystery of who killed Mike Emert will finally be revealed, or will it?  We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.