Accused of murder

Accused of murder 12/19/2005

By William Simonsen

Squim, Wash. — Amber Bulus-Steed was killed Dec. 14 in a motel room in Sequim. Court documents allege she was brutally murdered by her boyfriend of eight months, Nathan Hipsher.

She was 26 and left two daughters without a mother.

Law enforcement officials said her two young girls were in the room at the Greathouse Motel during their mother’s violent death.

Circumstances suggest the oldest girl, almost 4 years old, and the other girl, a little over 1 year, were in the car along with their dead mother while her alleged killer drove across Clallam County in the middle of the night.

Hipsher, 25, allegedly abandoned Bulus-Steed, her daughters and the car at the home of one of his family members on East Scrivener Road in Port Angeles about midnight.

But the story had started almost 12 hours earlier said Clallam County Undersheriff Fred DeFrang. He said the couple checked into the motel at about 1 p.m.

It was the day after Hipsher’s birthday, court records reveal.

Hipsher expected to be arrested by the state Department of Corrections at any moment and had gone into hiding at the motel, said Dan McCraw, one of the couple’s friends.

Corrections field administrator Gregg Freeman said there was a warrant out for Hipsher’s arrest. Freeman said Hipsher allegedly tested positive for drug use on Dec. 7, a violation of his parole from a previous prison sentence.

Freeman said the department knew Hipsher is seriously ill with cancer and planned to arrest him Wednesday after an appointment with his doctor.

But by then things had gone terribly wrong and Hipsher was already in jail. He was arrested when he surrendered to sheriff’s deputies at 8 a.m. Dec. 15.

He was charged with the death of Bulus-Steed — second-degree murder. If convicted as charged, he could face life in prison.

Bail was set at $1 million Dec. 17. Hipsher is scheduled for an arraignment Dec. 30, when he could enter a plea on the charge.

What happened at the motel?

The alleged events in the motel room that night are a disturbing tale of alcohol-fueled violence. Court records said Hipsher told detectives he and Bulus-Steed began drinking tequila and beer after they checked in.

Whether other drugs were used won’t be known until toxicology tests are completed, said DeFrang. The crime lab, he said, is very busy and it could take weeks or months for the results.

A motel guest said she saw Bulus-Steed and one of her daughters outside at about 9 p.m. The guest said Bulus-Steed appeared unhurt.

“He was really loud, and I was wondering, are they partying, or fighting?” said Shauna Ridgley, the motel guest.

About 9 p.m. “she came out with the baby in (only) diapers, saying, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK,’ then put the baby in the car,” said Ridgley. “She (Bulus-Steed) wasn’t in a hurry. I don’t know if she was waiting for him, or what.”

Sometime after 9 p.m. 6-foot 4-inch, 220-pound Hipsher allegedly attacked Bulus-Steed.

And the ferocity of that attack left her broken and dead.

The report of Sequim Police detective Cory Hall and county sheriff’s detective Todd Yarnes described her condition as bruised with “blacked eyes, bleeding from her nose as well as a fracture in her skull, allowing leakage of spinal fluid.”

When the detectives examined her body at the emergency room, they found marks on her neck left when she was strangled or choked, the documents said.

Bulus-Steed’s hair was “disheveled with some force.” The detectives concluded she “was dragged by her hair” through her own blood.

When Hall and Yarnes searched the room they found evidence of a violent struggle. Court documents said forensic evidence showed an image of Bulus-Steed “laying on the floor and bleeding” for some time before she was dragged by her hair, loaded into the car and driven to the Scrivener Road residence.

Hipsher told detectives he became unconscious from the alcohol, court documents said. Hipsher claimed when he awoke he found Bulus-Steed gravely injured.

The doctor at the Olympic Memorial Hospital emergency room told detectives he remembered treating Bulus-Steed for broken ribs and facial injuries in early September, court documents said. Healed broken ribs were discovered during Bulus-Steed’s autopsy.

It was one of a series of injuries to befall Bulus-Steed in the past year. She claimed her injures were all accidents, said her mother, Dana Steed.

Steed said she suspected that Bulus-Steed’s boyfriends beat her.

Bulus-Steed’s friends agree with her mother. “It was unusual to see her without a black eye,” said McCraw.

Clallam County District Court had an arrest warrant out for Hipsher, too. He was cited for driving without a valid license June 21. He never appeared in court to answer the charge.

Hipsher had been in trouble for a decade. His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14.

The juvenile charges were for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.

Hipsher’s extensive criminal record continued as an adult.

He was charged with a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.

In 2001, Hipsher was arrested again. This time he was charged with burglary, theft, arson and malicious mischief. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He pleaded guilty to the theft and arson charges and was sent to prison a sentence from which he was on parole when he was arrested last week.

Steed Murder Charges 1/5/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Accused murdered Nathan Hipsher pleaded not guilty in Clallam County Superior Court Thursday.

He remains in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Hipsher, 25, of Port Angeles, allegedly killed Amber Bulus-Steed during in a Sequim motel room the night of Dec. 14.

Court documents said Hipsher was drinking heavily the night of the murder at the Great House Motel.

The Certificate of Death said Bulus-Steed died of “homicidal violence” within “minutes” of being “beaten and strangled by another person.”

Charging documents allege that after killing Bulus-Steed, Hipsher loaded her body into his SUV and drove to Port Angeles.

His vehicle was found abandoned it in the driveway of family members on on East Scrivener Road in Port Angeles. His girlfriend of eight months, Bulus-Steed died at 26. Law enforcement officials said her two young daughters were in the room when Hipsher allegedly killed her.

Her older daughter, 4 years old and her younger daughter, a little over 1 year, were in the car along with their dead mother while her alleged killer drove across Clallam County in the middle of the night, court documents said.

The two children were physically unharmed, law enforcement officials said.

Hipsher has been in trouble with the law for a decade.

Most recently, he was sentenced to three years in prison on Oct. 3, 2001, after he pleaded guilty to theft and arson charges. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He did not serve the full term in prison.

Hipsher was on parole when he was arrested Dec. 15.

His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14.

The juvenile charges were for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.

Hipsher’s extensive criminal record continued as an adult.

He pleaded guilty to a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.

 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

 

Alleged Murderer Cancer 2/19/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — Although the prosecutor is not seeking the death penalty, accused murderer Nathan Hipsher may well die in prison anyway.

During a court appearance Feb. 18, his attorney said Hipsher was diagnosed with cancer.

Hipsher is charged with the Dec. 14 murder of Amber Bulus-Steed in a Sequim motel room.

Public defender Terry Mulligan said Hipsher is scheduled to see a specialist in Seattle. Hipsher will probably need intense treatment requiring hospitalization for more than one month, said Mulligan.

Hipsher was in Superior Court for a scheduling hearing — an appearance to set a date for trial. Judge Joe

Wood scheduled another appearance for Hipsher Feb. 25, after his examination by the specialist.

While he is in custody in the county jail, the cost of all Hipsher’s medical treatment must be paid by Clallam County, said Dan Engelbertson, county administrator.

Funding courts and the sheriff’s office take more than one-half of Clallam County’s $25.5 million general fund budget, Engelbertson said. During December budget hearings with the county commissioners, he said the county could incur huge medical costs for a jail inmate. But there was no way to avoid the county’s legal obligation to provide prisoner health care, he said.

 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

Alleged Murderer To Plead Guilty  4/6/05

By William Simonsen

Port Angeles, Wash. — The man accused of murdering Amber Bulus-Steed in a Sequim motel room is making a deal to plead guilty to the charge.

At a hearing in Superior Court April 1, Prosecutor Deborah Kelly said a plea agreement with Nathan Hipsher is imminent.

But the family members of his victim aren’t pleased.

Aaron Bulus-Steed, the victim’s brother, speculated Hipsher wanted to plead guilty only to get better medical treatment for his cancer.

Hipsher is suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer, his attorney said in court one month ago. Public defender Terry Mulligan said Hipsher already started treatment in Seattle.

Previously, Kelly said she would not seek the death penalty for the Dec. 14 murder.

Cutting deals with the prosecutor and pleading guilty seem to be a pattern for Hipsher.

He was charged with a string of 10 felonies in 1997 ranging from auto theft to burglary and possession of burglar tools. He accepted a plea bargain, served time and was paroled.

In 2001, Hipsher was arrested again. This time he was charged with burglary, theft, arson and malicious mischief. The arson charge involved a truck owned by the City of Port Angeles.

He pleaded guilty to the theft and arson charges and was sent to prison. He was on parole from the sentence when he was arrested and charged with the murder of Bulus-Steed.

Hipsher has been in trouble for a decade. His juvenile record lists five major crimes beginning at age 14. He was charged as a juvenile for auto theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft, criminal trespass and malicious mischief.

 

© 2013 William Simonsen. All rights reserved.

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