Snohomish County prosecutors on Wednesday charged a 40-year-old Everett man with second-degree murder and evidence tampering, accusing him of killing his landlord on Saturday, then removing his body and other evidence from the scene.
Frank Walton was arrested Saturday night at a Marysville apartment complex and was booked into the Snohomish County Jail, where he remains in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail, jail records show.
On Tuesday, the landlord’s body was found in Skagit County, Everett police announced in a news release.
The victim was identified Wednesday as Howard Benzel, 67, of Mukilteo, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. Benzel’s body was found near Highway 9, north of Highway 534 and south of West Big Lake Boulevard, according to the medical examiner, who determined Benzel died from blunt force injuries.
The location where Benzel’s body was discovered southeast of Mount Vernon is roughly 35 miles from the Everett rental property owned by Benzel and his wife.
A probable-cause statement outlining the police case against Walton says Benzel went to inspect the rental property on Saturday.
According to the statement:
Benzel’s wife called 911 around 4:30 p.m. and reported that she’d gone to the rental property in the 2100 block of Madison Street when her husband had failed to return home hours earlier. She located his truck and cellphone but couldn’t find him.
She called 911 again 15 minutes later and said she saw a man she knew as “Frank” wiping blood off the sidewalk before he loaded a bag into his car and drove off. She met an Everett police officer outside the building and directed him to the apartment where Walton lived, the statement says. The officer noticed a path of fresh blood droplets leading from the apartment’s entry to the street and forced open the door to check for anyone injured inside.
The officer spotted a large puddle of what he believed was a cleaning solution that smelled like bleach in the entryway and spotted blood on a wall and two small rugs. The officer also interviewed a neighbor, who reported hearing two men involved in a loud argument, followed by banging sounds on the floors, walls, and doors, followed by silence, the statement says.
Concerned Benzel had been abducted or assaulted, Everett police reentered the apartment and found Walton’s name on a player’s card from the Tulalip Casino and set about researching his history and his vehicle, a blue Buick Park Avenue.
Benzel’s wife told a detective she and her husband had been having problems with “Frank” and had informed him and his business partner that they would not be renewing their lease, the statement says.
Just before 8:30 p.m., someone called 911 and reported that Watson’s Buick had been located in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 7200 block of 47th Avenue Northeast in Marysville. Everett police confirmed it was the car they were looking for and impounded it. Walton then came out of an apartment and was arrested.
Police say Walton claimed Benzel had yelled at him outside his apartment but denied being involved in an altercation inside the unit, according to the probable-cause statement, which says Watson gave conflicting accounts of his movements that day and that his timeline of events didn’t make sense.
After obtaining search warrants, officers searched a communal trash bin at the Marysville apartment complex and found a garbage bag containing blood-covered floor mats, cleaning supplies, shipping materials and a blood-soaked banner. During the initial search of Walton’s apartment, an officer had noticed shipping materials and merchandise inside the apartment, “as if the occupant was selling products,” according to the statement.
The next morning, State Patrol crime-scene investigators located a bag of bloody clothes inside Walton’s apartment and found blood spatter on the underside of the upper kitchen cabinets.
“They said it appeared someone had cleaned up the kitchen but had forgotten to clean the underside of the cabinets. They advised that the amount of spatter was consistent with a homicide and/or dismembering happening in the kitchen,” a detective wrote in the statement.
The detective wrote that he considers Walton a flight risk since Walton is from Chicago, his girlfriend lives in Milwaukee and he has no real ties to the Everett area.