Careaga murders: 3 suspects plead not guilty to quadruple murder of Washington family

A Kitsap County judge ordered three suspects accused in the 2017 murders of the Careaga family be held without bail after their first court appearance Tuesday. Investigators say this may just be the beginning and more arrests could be on the way.

Danie Kelly, Jr., Robert Watson III and Johnny J. Watson were arrested on Monday in connection with the quadruple murder five years ago of a family that owned a restaurant in Bremerton, Washington.

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The Kitsap County Sheriff’s office said the three face 16 felony charges, ranging from first-degree aggravated murder, first-degree murder, first-degree arson and first-degree burglary. They all pleaded not guilty.

The charges stem from the slayings of Hunter Schaap and Johnathon Higgins, both 16; and Christale Careaga, 37, who were found inside a burned home on Jan. 27, 2017. A fourth victim, whose remains were found inside a scorched truck in Mason County, was later identified as John Careaga, 43.

'It's been a long road:' Loved ones react to arrests in 2017 quadruple murders of Careaga family

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said Monday they have arrested three suspects in connection with the murders of a family of four killed in 2017.

Detectives say the motive in this case revolves around drugs, money and personal conflicts.

Johnny Careaga, according to court documents, had been selling large amounts of narcotics with likely hundreds of thousands of dollars being stashed behind his family home.

But investigators never found cash at the Careaga property. Court records allege Robert Watson's bank accounts had been growing with large, unexplainable sums. 

Charging documents weave a prolonged nexis between the Watson brothers and Kelly - culminating in a plan, detectives say, to murder Johnny Careaga, his wife and their teenage sons. All but Schaap were shot to death execution-style in their home. Investigators think Schaap interrupted the crime scene, having enough life in him to call 911 for help.

Their bodies were doused with flammables and set ablaze in 2017. Johnny Careaga was also found burned days later in his truck - miles from home, leading investigators to think more arrests could be looming.

"We know there’s another crime scene somewhere. We know there’s other people involved or have information," said Sheriff John Gese.

Court documents allege video from Target shows Kelly buying a burner phone before the murders. That phone used by the Watsons and Kelly to coordinate business with Johnny Careaga, and ultimately, his family's murder, court documents say. 

Dozens of interviews, assistance from law enforcement agencies, the FBI, and new cellphone tracking technology, helped establish communications between Careaga and the trio and their locations, tying together what police believe implicates the Watsons and Kelly in the quadruple murder.

The Kitsap County Sheriff's Office gave an update on the case. See the full news conference below:

Bail for each of the three suspects was initially set at $20 million until the three suspects appear at their arraignment on Tuesday, June 27, which will be the next court hearing.

John Careaga and his wife, Christale, owned Juanito’s Taqueria in Bremerton.

Careaga family murder: Timeline of the investigation and arrests made

Three people have been arrested in connection with the murders of a Seabeck, Washington family in 2017, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.