More areas of forest closed as manhunt for murder suspect on Blewett Pass continues


As the manhunt for a murder suspect off Blewett Pass continues, additional sections of forest have been closed to the public.

The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office had asked the U.S. Forest Service and state Department of Natural Resources to widen the areas that were closed last weekend.

Numerous local, state and federal law enforcement officers have been searching for Jorge Alcantara-Gonzalez, 34, since May 23 when evidence connected him with missing Kent man Ian Eckles, 41.

The sheriff’s office believes Alcantara-Gonzalez killed Eckles in his car, though his body has not yet been found.

Alcantara-Gonzalez was last seen armed with Eckles’ shotgun May 26 at the Mineral Springs Campground. He is believed to be on foot and still in the area.

The expanded forest closure includes all Forest Service lands west of Highway 97 to the edge of the Teanaway Community Forest, and the portion of the Teanaway Community Forest on the east side of Teanaway Road and North Fork Teanaway Road.

North Fork Teanaway Road is also closed near Milepost 9, eliminating access to recreational lands and facilities north of that point, including 29 Pines Campground.

Additional closures on the east side of Highway 97 include the Liberty Campground off Liberty road and Swauk Campground off Highway 97.

Unless modified or rescinded, the emergency closure order extends until June 15.

The search also continues for Eckles, who disappeared May 16 while on his way to a turkey hunt in Liberty.

“These expansive closures reflect the serious threat to public safety that the subject of this manhunt presents,” the sheriff’s office said. “The Sheriff’s Office has increased patrols in the area and is actively notifying residents about the situation. Residents are encouraged to lock their doors and vehicles, secure their property, and maintain heightened alertness.”