A Washington man who police said beheaded his girlfriend with a samurai sword was identified as a body located in California.
The “John Doe” found in Feather River in Yuba City was positively identified as Jacob Gonzales, who was suspected of murdering Katherine Cunningham, 26, on Camano Island, Washington, in mid-February 2018. Her body was found on March 3, 2018.
“Katherine was found on the property of the rural Camano Island home she shared with the suspect. The subsequent investigation revealed that Katherine had been murdered on February 14th or 15th,” according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
Cunningham’s vehicle was discovered disabled and abandoned near Yreka, California, on Feb. 16, 2018, and was towed away several days later and placed in impound.
After Cunningham’s body was discovered, law enforcement put out an alert for her vehicle and the California Highway Patrol told the sheriff’s office that they had the vehicle. The car was towed to Washington and searched.
Deputies found a Samurai sword wrapped in a blanket. The sword “appeared to match the type of weapon that was used to inflict the injuries on Katherine. Testing found Katherine’s DNA on the blade and Gonzales’s DNA on the handle,” the sheriff’s office stated.
Gonzales’s body was found in the river on April 7, 2018, but wasn’t identified until over a year later. The identification was made with the help of tips from the public.
The cause of death for Gonzales was determined as drowning. He was facing up to 28 years in prison if he had been convicted of murdering Cunningham.
Detective Ed Wallace of the Island County Sheriff’s Office said that Gonzales was the only suspect in the murder but that detectives would continue the investigation as if they were preparing a court case with the possibility of other suspects.
The detective told the Redding Record Searchlight that he wishes law enforcement could have questioned Gonzales before he died in the effort to provide closure for Cunningham’s murder.
“My hope was to interrogate him and provide answers to Katherine’s family,” Wallace said. “He cheated the family of answers.”
He said that he alerted Cunningham’s mother once the positive identification was made. He also said that the Washington Department of Justice would have to answer why it took so long for the body to be identified through DNA.
Cunningham’s sister told KFSN that the family is just trying to process everything, adding that this was “not the outcome we were hoping for, but it’s some closure. We can finally grieve now.”
Crime declined in the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017, the FBI said in February. Preliminary statistics show nearly all offenses in the violent crime category declined. Robbery offenses decreased 12.5 percent, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter offenses decreased 6.7 percent, and aggravated assault offenses declined 2 percent, the agency said. Rapes, however, increased by 0.6 percent.
When comparing data from the first six months of 2018 with the first six months of 2017, all property crime categories showed a decrease. Burglaries were down 12.7 percent, larceny-thefts decreased 6.3 percent, and motor vehicle thefts declined 3.3 percent. The full 2018 crime report will be released later this year.
The FBI previously said that both violent crime and property crime decreased in 2017, the last year that full statistics are available for, compared to 2016. Overall violent crime decreased 0.2 percent from 2016 to 2017, while property crime decreased 3 percent during that time, the agency said in September 2018, releasing data from the previous year.
The figures were compiled from more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies around the United States that submitted their crime data to the FBI.