The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Double-homicide shooter dies, motive remains a mystery

 


Robert Bianchi, Chief Civil Deputy for the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office, was filling his car at a gas station when he got the call of shots fired about eight miles northeast of Goldendale. His immediate availability to the scene led to him being the first law enforcement figure at the location—and to encountering a remarkably bizarre double murder.

Smoke was billowing all around the area when he first got there, Bianchi says, making it difficult to see. But one of the first things he saw was a wiry man who identified himself as Gary Hawkins, 51, standing on the road chatting with another man.

“Hi,” Hawkins said causally as Bianchi approached. “I’m the guy you’re looking for.”

“Then he holds up his hands, wrists together,” Bianchi recalled. “He says, ‘I’m ready to wear the bracelets.’” Bianchi handcuffed him and put him in his car.

By this time Hawkins had fired multiple bullets into two young people on the scene and engaged in a slapdash firefight with his sister, Susan Hawkins—the same family member who last week ordered Gary’s life support function at OSHU in Portland to be pulled, ending his life. (Hawkins had no brain activity showing at that time.)

At the moment of his arrest, Hawkins spoke of his own imminent demise. “I’m going to die,” he told Bianchi.

“The guy showed no apparent signs of illness,” Bianchi says. “There was no indication that there was anything wrong with him. I asked him if he needed medical attention. He said, ‘Well, eventually.’”

Bianchi was surprised at how cool Hawkins seemed about everything, considering he’d just confessed to killing two people only minutes earlier. And he didn’t just shoot them. He returned to make sure they were dead.

Here is what unfolded: Gary Hawkins was living in an RV on the property where his sister, Susan, 53, and her significant other, 74-year-old Ned Crippin, lived. Susan and Ned were in a single-wide nearby. Also nearby was a tent, where Susan’s 18-year-old granddaughter, April, was temporarily living with a friend, 18-year-old Justin Plunkett.

Sometime that Friday, Sept. 16, Gary Hawkins appeared at his sister’s door and told her he didn’t feel well. And he wanted Justin off the property. He was calm.

Shortly after, Susan heard shouting at the tent nearby. She looked over and saw Gary and April standing close to each other. Then she watched Gary raise his 9mm handgun and fire several bullets into April’s body and saw her collapse in a heap. She then saw Gary turn toward the tent where Justin was and fire several shots into him.

Gary then turned toward Susan, still in her single-wide and where Ned was still asleep. Gary began firing his pistol into her living room window. Susan soon had a gun in her own hand and returned fire through her front door. Each person was largely shooting blindly. Susan called 9-1-1.

Gary then paused to set his RV on fire. Immediately afterward, he returned to the tent where April and Justin’s bodies lay. He fired several more bullets into each body. Then he dropped his gun and strolled up the driveway. There he ran into a neighbor, James Klukkert. “Hear that?” Gary asked Klukkert about the approaching vehicles. “They’re coming for me.”

“When I put Gary in the car,” Bianchi recalls after the capture, “he was physically calm but still trying to give me a hard time.” Hawkins warned Bianchi that the flames engulfing the nearby structures were going to set off the abundant ammunition in the buildings. Bianchi left Hawkins in the car to have a brief conversation with then-arriving Rural 7 Chief Tony Browning. “It was maybe a minute,” Bianchi says. “When I returned to car, Gary was slumped over. I said, ‘Come on, Gary, sit up.’”

But Hawkins was dead—for the moment. Bianchi and medical first responders performed CPR and got a pulse back. Off he went, first to KVH and then transported by Life Flight to OSHU, where he died last week.

Bianchi went to get Susan and Ned out of their single-wide. “It was pitch-black dark in there,” he says. “I asked Susan where Ned was. She said, ‘He’s sleeping.’ And I heard ammunition beginning to fire in the heat.”

Seconds later Ned came ambling out of a room. “We’ve got to get you out of here,” Bianchi told him as he tried to help. Ned resisted. But as ammunition continued to pop, Bianchi finally said, “Sir, I’m going to have to put you over my shoulder and carry you out.” And he did.

We have the details of what happened. The why behind those details—the subtext of this perplexing chain of events—remains a nagging mystery.

 

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