Bellingham community grieves sudden loss of family; police believe 3 deaths were a murder-suicide

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – An entire family killed in their quiet Whatcom County subdivision has been identified by investigators.

The Bellingham Police Department said 45-year-old Kevin, 43-year-old Tanya and their 5-year-old son Benton Rowe were all found dead inside their own home on Monday.

Investigators say the tragic act appears to be a case of murder-suicide, but detectives admit they may never know why it happened.

A woman who told Q13 News she is one of Tanya’s close friends and colleagues said the tragedy has left a gaping hole in the Bellingham community.

“There’s nothing I could say to even begin to touch how deep a loss this is for all of us,” said J. Marie Riche.

Tanya Rowe is remembered as a journalist and a communicator – but for those who knew her best, a loving and passionate mother.

“Her son Benton absolutely put a sparkle in her eyes,” said Riche. “From the moment she had him, being a loving and involved mom was at the very top of her list.”

Investigators say a family member called police after they hadn’t heard from the Rowe family for 24-hours. When police got to their Spring Vista Place home they found the entire family had been killed.

“The young boy was found in his bedroom, the wife was found in the bedroom and the husband was found in the garage,” said Bellingham Police Lt. Mike Johnston.

Investigators believe one of the family members killed the others before taking their own life, but have not yet revealed who may have committed the murders.

“It’s tragic to lose a life,” said Bellingham Police Lt. Danette Beckley, “But it’s really tragic when one of them is a child.”

Benton Rowe was in kindergarten at Wade King Elementary School. Extra counselors were brought in to help students and staff grieve.

Tanya had once been a lecturer at Western Washington University, among other jobs during her 5-year career there. She also worked at the Bellingham Herald as a reporter and most recently at the Bellingham Public Schools District.

“She had this incredible ability to bring both her head and her heart together in the service of causes she believed in,” said Riche.

Now a community struggles to cope with overwhelming loss and hard questions about why this had to happen. It’s a question investigators admit they may never be able to answer.

“We may never know the why, but we’re trying to paint a picture because we all want to know how could this tragedy happen in our community,” said Johnston.

Police say they are interviewing Tanya and Kevin’s family members, friends new and old neighbors to help understand a motive in this case.

Anyone who might have information, no matter how small, is urged to call police.

Bellingham Public Schools Superintendent Greg Baker shared the following statement with district families, which reads in part:

Dear Families,

I am sorry to share news of a tragedy within our Bellingham Public Schools family. We have learned that Tanya Rowe, our Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations, her husband Kevin and their son Benton, who was a kindergartner at Wade King, were found dead yesterday at their home. We are heartbroken by this news.

Bellingham police are actively investigating the incident. They have informed us that the public is not in any danger and no suspects are being sought.

Tanya served our school community with dedication and distinction for 13 years. Before coming to Bellingham Public Schools, she worked in the Office of Communications at Western Washington University and, before that, was a news reporter with the Bellingham Herald.

Tanya was an amazing leader, a skilled communicator and a dear friend and colleague. She loved her friends and family deeply, especially her son Benton. She had an adventurous and brave spirit, which she passed on her to son, and they spent much of their free time hiking, biking, gardening and beach combing around the Pacific Northwest. Benton was a bright and curious child who loved being outside and had many friends throughout the Bellingham community. Their deaths are a profound loss to our school district and to our larger community.

The district’s counseling and support team was on site at Wade King Elementary and the District Office today. They will be onsite again tomorrow for anyone who needs help. Support will also be available after the holidays as needed.

Paul Cocke, spokesperson for Western Washington University, shared the following statement with Q13 News:

“We’re devastated by the news of Tanya’s death. Tanya was a hardworking, dedicated and resolutely kind human being. In the five years she was here in the Office of Communications and Marketing, she served as media coordinator then as assistant director. She was also a lecturer in the Journalism department as well as a student, earning a master’s degree. Tanya’s kindness and professionalism touched a lot of people at Western, where she is remembered with love.”