PORT ANGELES, Wash. – The step-father accused of deliberately setting fire to his family’s home over the weekend faced a judge Monday afternoon.
Court documents allege 34-year-old Matthew Wetherington may have planned his crimes, perhaps days in advance.
Prosecutors say Wetherington could face murder charges for the deaths of his wife and young step-children. The crime has rocked the Port Angeles community, which is grieving the loss of a mother and her three young children from ages five to nine.
While medical examiners have yet to positively identify the victims, prosecutors are moving forward with their case assuming 34-year-old Valerie Kambeitz along with 9-year-old Lilly, 6-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Jayden all died in a fire that investigators believe Wetherington set on purpose early Saturday morning.
“She seemed happy,” said Holly Wright who said she is a friend to the victim’s family. “I mean, her babies were her world. Her babies were her everything.”
Wright was in court along with Kambeitz’ friends and family – all to see Wetherington face a judge for his alleged involvement in the gruesome crime.
“The children were loved in their community and very loved in their schools,” said Wright.
Prosecutors say Wetherington was a registered sex offender with a criminal past including a conviction of burglary, robbery, assault and kidnapping with sexual motivation.
Court documents paint a scenario where police allege Wetherington may have planned out the killings and the fire, and then planned to camp out while eluding authorities.
Police also say they found a journal allegedly written by Wetherington – where in one case he wrote: ‘One of the things that keep replaying in my minds eye is the first thing my wife said “What am I doing” … “What am I doing? Indeed, why did I do it? Why, indeed.”’
It’s a question the entire Olympic Peninsula is asking – Why.
Wright says she didn’t see any warning signs.
“If the red flags were there her family seen it, but they never say any,” said Wright. “It was all happiness up until what transpired.”
About one hundred people gathered for a candle light vigil to remember the family at the city pier.
Wetherington, being held on $5 million bail, could officially be charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and arson by Wednesday.