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Kent couple pleads not guilty to arson, murder charges

Michelle Backstrom and Kennon Fastrup each pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and arson charges in connection with the killing of a 39-year-old Kent woman found in the trunk of her burned-out car near Black Diamond.

Backstrom, 34, of Kent, pleaded not guilty in King County Superior Court to second-degree murder and second-degree arson for the May 4 death of Denise Kay Grigsby. Fastrup, 30, of Kent, pleaded not guilty to second-degree arson, first-degree rendering criminal assistance and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle.

They are scheduled to return to court June 13 for a hearing when a trial date could be set or attorneys could ask for more time to prepare for the case. Backstrom remains in the county jail in Seattle with bail set at $1 million. Fastrup is in the county jail at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent with bail set at $1 million.

Prosecutors charged the couple May 16 in connection with the death of Grigsby. Backstrom and Fastrup were in a dating relationship, according to charging papers. Fastrup also dated Grigsby. All three were methamphetamine users.

King County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested the couple May 11 along Interstate 90 in North Bend after a high-speed pursuit. The couple had been staying in the woods near I-90 after Grigsby's death.

The murder allegedly occurred May 4 at the home of Backstrom on the East Hill in Kent after an argument between Fastrup and Grigsby.

Mountain View Fire and Rescue responded to a report of a car fire May 6 in the area of Southeast 328th Street and Southeast Auburn-Black Diamond Road. When the fire department arrived the car was fully engulfed in flames. Fire investigators discovered the burned remains of Grigsby in the trunk of the car.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office determined that Grigsby died from blunt force trauma to the head. They also determined she died before the car fire because she had no soot in her respiratory system. They identified her through dental records.

Fastrup confessed to detectives to burning the car at the arson site. He claimed he did it at the request of Backstrom. He said he did not know Grigsby was dead or that her body was in the trunk until they actually got to the scene and he opened the trunk. He said he burned the car anyway to assist Backstrom.

Fastrup denied participating in the murder and claimed he had left Backstrom's house at the time of Grigsby's murder.

Backstrom confessed to detectives that she had participated in the murder and arson. An argument among the three at Backstrom's home in the 25000 block of 128th Place Southeast reportedly led to the killing of Grigsby.

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