A high-profile murder case in Grant County received National attention this week in Washington D.C. when Sheriffs Chief Deputy Ryan Rectenwald presented testimony before the United State Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Rectenwald recounted the shooting death of Jill Sundberg and how it relates to the ongoing issues of crime and illegal immigration. The case involves the suspected shooter who was in the Country illegally and had been deported once before after a previous criminal conviction.
TESTIMONY OF CHIEF DEPUTY RYAN RECTENWALD
SHERIFF’S OFFICE, GRANT COUNTY, WASHINGTON
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE
MARCH 1, 2017
HEARING: The Effects of Border Insecurity and Lax Immigration Enforcement on American Communities
Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member McCaskill, thank you for the invitation to come and speak with you today. I’m here to talk about a horrific murder which took place in our rural community of Grant County, Washington. An incident that to this day remains the most dreadful scene I’ve ever encountered in my nearly 20-year law enforcement career.
We received a call around noon, three days before Christmas 2016. A woman was out walking her dog near the Columbia River in a picturesque recreational area which is popular with tourists and rock climbers and endeared by residents. She said she’d found a dead body.
What I saw when I arrived at the crime scene can only be described as straight out of a horror movie. The body was lying face down in the snow. Detectives found 13 bullet casings, 11 of those bullets found their mark, striking the victim in the back of the head, neck, and shoulder area.
A box from a case of beer had a message written in Spanish and secured to the victim’s back by a kitchen knife. The victim was later identified as Jill Marie Sundberg, age 31, the mother of four young children. We later learned she was kidnapped by five men after an argument at a party. She was forced into a vehicle with those five men, driven ten miles to this remote area, and was executed. The fear and brutality this woman faced during that ten-mile drive, and in the moments prior to her death will forever haunt the case investigators.
During the investigation, we developed a list of persons-of-interest who lived in the same trailer park where Jill had occasionally lived. With the help of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents and the U.S. Marshals Service, we were able to pick up and interview three of the five men. While all five were later arrested on murder, kidnapping, and other charges, what’s important to know is that all five were determined to be in this country illegally and one had two prior felony criminal convictions.
The fact that these suspects were here illegally isn’t my point. It’s that the shooter was still in the U.S. after being convicted of crimes, and previously deported. So, how did this happen?
It turns out the alleged shooter had been previously deported in May 2007 after his first felony conviction. He then illegally re-entered our county and in June 2013, he was arrested on new felony assault charges in Grant County. He served out his sentence and in January 2014 he was released to Immigration again. Prior to his deportation hearing, he posted $8,000 cash bail in March 2014. He never returned for his hearing. No failure to appear warrants were ever issued. He was then later re-arrested in September 2015 in our county on a new domestic violence assault charge.