After more than 50 years, Lee Sundholm has found closure now that the Bellevue Police Department has solved his brother’s 1965 murder — the city’s first homicide and oldest cold case.
“I could never forget that, to this day,” Sundholm, 75, said of the night his father called him to tell him that his brother, Loren, had been found stabbed to death.
Loren H. Sundholm, 23, had been out drinking in Seattle on December 4, 1965 with friend Bill Huff. The pair were driving home to Kirkland through Bellevue when Huff said they were forced off of the road. Huff told police two men exited a Buick with an Oregon license plate and attacked them, knocking him unconscious, according to an Eastside Journal article.
Loren’s body was later found in some nearby blackberry bushes, having been stabbed 13 times. His death was the young city’s first murder.
Police searched for the suspects, but were unable to find any answers and the trail went cold. Lee never forgot his younger brother, who was stationed nearby when they were both in the Navy and would visit him regularly. But after some years, the Woodinville resident accepted that he might never know who killed Loren.
Last year, Bellevue Police Detective Shelby Shearer began looking into the case as a side project.
“We’re always struggling to prioritize cases, and sometimes cold cases can get ignored. But they’re never fully forgotten,” he said.
Shearer hoped there would be evidence that could be retested using new technology, perhaps some DNA samples. But the only clues he had to work with were crime scene photos and the autopsy report. He would have to resort to old school police work.
The detective contacted Huff’s ex-wives and other character witnesses, who painted him as a violent and rageful monster. Shearer also worked with the King County medical examiner, which opened the floodgates.
Together, they were able to disprove most of Huff’s account of the night.
Though it was a rainy night and Huff claimed the attack had occured in a muddy area, there wasn’t any mud on Loren’s body. There was, however, a dark stain on the passenger seat of Huff’s car.
All signs pointed to Huff.
For many years, the department had suspected Huff was involved in his friend’s death. There had been mentions that he owed Loren money and a rumor that Huff had been having an affair with Loren’s estranged wife. Huff also left Washington right after being discharged from the hospital in December 1965 and settled in a small town in Minnesota.
When the case was revisited in 1998, the detective investigating it went so far as to visit Huff in Minnesota and confront him, trying to get a confession. But they weren’t able to make any charges stick before Huff’s 2012 death.
“We had no reason not to believe him,” he said. “Bill was a friend of the family. Nobody ever suspected this.”
But the evidence and theory that Shearer compiled seemed conclusive, Lee said. A special administrative panel of King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, department supervisors and detectives agreed. They determined that Huff had likely killed Loren.
Though Huff died in 2012 and was never brought to justice for Loren’s death, Lee said that he would have little to say to his brother’s murderer.
“As a Christian, I would have to forgive him. Period. No questions asked. There’s no hatred in my body,” Lee said.