Murder Mystery: Did online dating lead to killing of Spanaway man, arson of his home?

KILLER WANTED IN PIERCE COUNTY -- Pierce County detectives are hoping you can help solve the murder of a man inside his Spanaway home in 2013. The killer also set his house on fire -- but left behind lots of evidence. “It really is kind of a mystery,” says detective Brian Lund with the Pierce county sheriff’s office. It was 4:30am on a Wednesday morning.  Lund continues “The fire department had been called, the neighbor’s came out and noticed smoke billowing from the eves of a house.” It was mid-summer on July 24th, 2013. “Fire responded, kicked down the door, and in the process of putting out the fire that was mostly contained to the back room, they discovered a body,” Lund recalls. 55-year old Douglass Erhardt had been murdered inside his home in Spanaway.

Lund says, “There’s no sign of forced entry, there’s signs of a struggle inside the house. There was some type of violent assault that occurred and caused his death before the fire was set.” Douglass had no criminal background, but police began what was proven to be a very difficult investigation. “We discovered that he was very active in an online dating community where he would meet other men.” Lund explains, “We collected phones, we collect computers, but it’s hard to say that we got all of them. And part of it is that when you’re doing it, you’re meeting so many people and finding the connection between the killer and the victim can be difficult depending on how much of a connection they had.” Douglass would use the name “Joe” online, but detectives say the investigation “off line” has been a challenge as well. “There was a lot of stuff we found inside the house like different clothing and items that kind of made us wonder how many people were there on a regular basis,” Detective Lund added. The killer or killers left Douglass’s home in his car. It was discovered burned on highway 410 near Greenwater. “At this point, we don’t have any suspects.” Explains Lund. “We have several people that we’ve looked at quite closely, and they haven’t been eliminated yet. But at this moment, we don’t have a strong suspect.” Police did collect hundreds of items of evidence that is currently being processed at the crime lab. “I think the fact that somebody went to great lengths to destroy evidence and didn’t do it correctly. There was a fire set right through the living room floor, but didn’t take care of the rest of the house … 12.45.19 “we still have a lot more than whoever set it planned on us having,” Lund says. And while they wait for all of the evidence to process, detectives are hoping that someone will come forward with that missing piece of information needed to solve this case. Lund adds, “I think there is some information out there that would probably match with what we have that would help us solve it, call an anonymous tip into: CRIME STOPPERS: 1-800-222-TIPS You must call the Crime Stoppers hotline with your tip to be eligible to receive a cash reward for information leading to a fugitive’s arrest. CLICK HERE for information on how to TEXT A TIP to Crime Stoppers