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Montana man pleads guilty to 1996 killing of Kent co-worker

A Victor, Mont., man pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the 1996 killing of a Kirkland mother he met when both worked at Bowen Scarff Ford in Kent.

Clifford Everell Reed, 60, entered the Alford plea, a plea that doesn’t admit to the act but admits that the prosecution would likely prove the charge, on March 7 before King County Superior Court Judge Mary I. Yu. He originally pleaded not guilty last year.

Reed is scheduled to be sentenced at 1 p.m. on April 11 before Yu.

Reed was charged in December 2012 with second-degree murder for killing 28-year-old Sandi Rae Johnson, a former Kirkland resident, on April 26, 1996. He was extradited from Montana two months later and was booked into the King County jail on $5 million bail.

Charging documents state Reed left Washington shortly after Johnson was reported missing.

Washington State Department of Transportation workers later discovered her body on Aug. 25, 2004 in Pierce County. Her skeletal remains were identified via dental records and an autopsy revealed her death was a homicide.

Reed and Johnson worked at Bowen Scarff Ford in Kent together when the mother of two disappeared.

The day before she went missing, Johnson worked a double shift to take the next day off to prepare for her son’s fifth birthday, which included two parties.

She planned for her then 2-year-old daughter and son to stay with a babysitter overnight. According to charging documents, she left a voicemail with the babysitter the morning of her disappearance, stating that she would pick them up later in the day so she could do some shopping. Johnson also made plans to have lunch with a friend in Bellevue but never showed up.

“[Her friend] drove to Sandi’s house in Kirkland and noted that her car wasn’t there and she didn’t answer the door,” according to charging documents. “He continued to try to contact Sandi throughout the day but he never heard from her again.”

After Johnson failed to pick up her kids and missed her son’s first birthday party, her estranged husband reported her missing.

That weekend, Burien Thriftway Market employees reported a green Ford Escort station wagon in the driveway, matching the the description of Johnson’s vehicle. The doors were unlocked, the key was in the ignition, her cell phone and papers were in plain view and the seat was all the way back -- unusual considering Johnson was petite, the documents continue.

Johnson’s wallet was later found on Ranier Avenue South at the Eagle Hardware store with a missing license.

During the investigation, Reed told detectives that he ordered custom-made stools for Johnson’s children, which would also act as a birthday gift for her son. Johnson’s husband told police she said she was going to Reed’s that morning to pick them up.

Reed’s apartment neighbors contacted police three days after the woman went missing and said they saw a vehicle that matched her car’s description, parked outside of Reed’s apartment on April 26, 1996 and also heard a woman’s voice, but saw Reed drive the vehicle in the direction of the Thriftway shop alone. Reed claimed the car was “some guy’s” who met him for auto-work and said the car was a Subaru.

But Reed’s roommate told neighbors that while he was at work that Friday, Reed had vacuumed, cleaned out the vacuum cleaner and rented a carpet cleaner to clean the carpets.

“…This was unusual since Reed had never cleaned the apartment in the years prior to that,” according to charging documents.

Five days later, court documents say a neighbor received a call from Reed, who asked him to tell police that he and Sandi were just friends and that he was kidding about their sexual relationship.

But as police investigated Johnson’s disappearance, Reed’s friends said Johnson was a special person to Reed and that he had told them they had an “active sexual relationship” and would eventually marry.

“In reality, Sandi did not return his affections, denied any romantic relationship and told friends Reed needed to leave her alone,” according to charging documents.

Reed’s friends also said he allegedly had a history of referring to women as “sluts and gold diggers.” A close friend of Reed’s told police that he was likely responsible for Johnson’s disappearance and noted Reed was very bitter toward his ex-wives.

His friend allegedly told police that Reed said he divorced his second ex-wife “so he wouldn’t have to give her any money” and if she ever tried to get money from him, “he would kill her and she would disappear.”

Reed had allegedly loaned Johnson $1,800 for a house payment and often spoke of wanting to find a steady job so that he could support Johnson and her children if they ever ended up in a serious relationship.

Reed denied having any romantic relationship with Johnson to police and suggested Johnson could have committed suicide.

Story contributed by Raechel Dawson of the Kirkland Reporter.

 

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