The detectives who helped track survivalist and suspected killer Peter Keller said he built his three-chambered bunker, stashed with candy bars and Coke, for one.
NORTH BEND — The three-chambered bunker with a sleeping loft and storage area that Peter Keller painstakingly carved into the earth was built for one.
Keller, a survivalist who was reportedly bracing for the “end of the world,” apparently had planned to ride out the apocalypse alone — even before he allegedly killed his wife of 21 years and their teenage daughter and set fire to their home.
Located near a stream for drinking water, equipped with a pulley system and loaded with weapons, ammunition, beans, barley, rice and candy bars, the bunker was clearly designed and built by a determined and driven individual, said detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Keller, who had been building the shelter little by little for eight years, had even begun to chip away at the bedrock to expand his Rattlesnake Ridge bunker, detectives said.
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“He was definitely in it for the long haul,” said Sgt. Jesse Anderson of the department’s Major Crime Unit.
But there was no evidence that he’d made accommodations for anyone but himself, the detectives said.
The investigators were among a group of people, including reporters and state Department of Natural Resources officials, who made the rugged off-trail hike up Rattlesnake Ridge on Monday to see the bunker.
Keller fatally shot himself sometime after sheriff’s deputies surrounded the bunker Friday morning. Fearful that Keller was heavily armed, deputies spent the night watching the bunker before peering inside Saturday morning and finding Keller’s body.
Investigators suspect Keller killed himself after tear gas was thrown into his bunker late Friday or early Saturday. Contrary to earlier reports, Keller did not have a gas mask, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Keller, 41, was charged Wednesday in King County Superior Court with first-degree murder and a single count of arson in connection with the shooting deaths of his wife and daughter and for allegedly setting fire to their home. Lynnettee Keller, 41, and daughter Kaylene were found April 22 after firefighters responded to a blaze at their North Bend home.
According to court documents, Keller’s daughter had told her boyfriend that her father was preparing for “the end of the world” and stockpiling items in the woods. Those who know Keller say he had a fascination with guns, a survivalist mentality and a “distaste for authority,” court documents say.
Prosecutors said Keller set fire to the home with gasoline to cover up the killings and to destroy evidence.
But among items found in the home by detectives were photos of the bunker and other photos that helped them pinpoint its location.
Lead detective Robin Cleary said investigators were able to find him with the help of photographs taken from his computer’s hard drive.
“Clearly, he expected the fire to destroy everything,” she said, “but he did not research arson as well as he did the bunker.”
Anderson and Cleary said Keller scoped out the bunker’s location when he lived in a neighborhood at the base of the mountain.
Once chosen, he began to dig his bunker, fortifying it with logs he cut, stripped and planed by himself, they said. He devised a pulley system to move the logs, according to Cleary.
He also had rigged up a ventilation system and a way to pump water into his shelter from a stream. He also built a woodstove made from a metal trash can.
A road leading to a nearby power station would have allowed him to haul heavy equipment and loads of material to a spot about 200 yards from his bunker, according to deputy and tracker Troy Chaffee.
In addition to grains and legumes, Keller had shelf-loads of Coca-Cola and “tons” of 100 Grand candy bars. “I was surprised he didn’t have more protein,” Cleary said.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.