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Bellevue cold case closes with murder plea | Michael Halgren facing life in prison for 1980 murder of Susan Lowe
A convicted sex offender committed for his sexually violent behavior pleaded guilty Thursday to the 1980 murder of a 19-year-old woman inside her Bellevue apartment, bringing a 34-year-old cold case to a close.
Michael A. Halgren, 58, pled guilty Thursday to a second-degree murder charge tied to the April 23, 1980, rape and strangulation of Susan Lowe inside her Quorum Apartments — now known as the Carrington Apartments. Lowe was found naked in her bed by her roommate the following morning, having been raped and strangled with a piece of her own nylon leggings.
Lacking today's technological advances, a semen sample recovered from the crime scene could not be used to identify a suspect and the case was inactivated in 1987. It was reassigned to a Bellevue Police detective in 1997. The Forensic Science Associates of California was able to create a DNA profile in 1999 that was later enhanced by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. According to charging documents, Halgren was found to be a match to the DNA sample in May 2012.
Halgren grew up on the 2200 block of 151st Avenue Southeast, three blocks from Lowe's apartment. Following a history of sexually violent behavior, including rape and unlawful imprisonment convictions, court documents state Halgren was civilly committed as a sexually violent predator to the Department of Social and Health Services Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island in 2002.
Documents state Halgren peeped on women during his high school years and exposed himself to more than 40 women in his early 20s. Halgren reportedly admitted to raping more than 20 women — many prostitutes — since his discharge from the Air Force in 1975, including two women in Bellevue between. During an interview with law enforcement in August 2012, Halgren told police he did not recognize Lowe in a photo he was shown and questioned the validity of the DNA evidence against him.
With his guilty plea entered Thursday, Halgren faces 17 years to life in prison when he's sentenced next month. The King County Prosecutor's Office is seeking the latter. Should Halgren ever be released, he would return to the Special Commitment Center.
“There is a special satisfaction when we can solve a murder more than three decades old using modern forensic science,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney, in a statement. “It is due to the dedication of the Bellevue Police Department, the Crime Lab and our Cold Case Project that this man, who thought he had gotten away with murder, will now spend up to the rest of his life in prison."