Teen who went missing in Wash. charged with murder of Daniel McCaw

On Sept. 1, authorities found a 16-year-old boy near a quiet, wooded road in Thurston County, Wash., wearing no shoes, socks or shirt.

The high-schooler had been reported missing a day earlier, setting off an intense search that included bloodhounds and assistance from the FBI.

The day the teen reappeared, detectives in the nearby city of Orting found 51-year-old Daniel McCaw dead inside his home. He had stab wounds to his body and a bullet wound to his head.

Now, the teen and his 16-year-old friend have been charged with first-degree murder in McCaw’s death. They are also being charged with second-degree murder, burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm. Both are being charged as adults, according to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which filed the charges. The two were arraigned on Tuesday, and bail was set at $1 million each. The two have pleaded not guilty, the News Tribune reported.

Attorneys representing both teens declined to comment to The Washington Post. The Post is not identifying the boys because it does not typically name juvenile defendants.

What began as a case of a missing student-athlete has transformed into a complex homicide case, with law enforcement authorities alleging that the teen staged his disappearance after he and his friend sneaked into McCaw’s house and killed him. McCaw once had a relationship with the missing teen’s mother, according to an arrest affidavit. The couple and the boy lived at McCaw’s house for several years, the News Tribune reported, citing court records.

While prosecutors listed the victim only as D.M. in court records, the medical examiner identified McCaw as the man who had been killed.

Prosecutors said the victim died in the early hours of Aug. 28. Around that time, the two teens were camping with friends and family at Panther Lake, according to the affidavit. The family of one of the boys told a detective during the missing-person investigation that the teenagers left their cabin just after midnight on Aug. 28 and returned around 6:30 a.m., the affidavit states.

Just before 2 a.m., according to the affidavit, surveillance footage from the victim’s home captured two “young skinny males” crawl into the house through the dog door. About 40 minutes later, the affidavit states, the footage shows the two running back and forth between the main residence and a detached garage before fleeing around 2:50 a.m.

Days later, on Aug. 31, one of the teens went “missing under suspicious circumstances,” the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said. He had left his house that afternoon for football practice but never showed up. Deputies later found his vehicle 14 miles away from his school in nearby Tenino. It had “exterior damage, and suspected blood was found on the steering wheel and driver’s door panel,” an affidavit for the teen’s arrest states. His phone was also found smashed near the vehicle, and a resident reported seeing the teen walking in the area, according to the affidavit.

Authorities found him about 10 p.m. the next day. The 16-year-old was wearing only shorts, and he told a Thurston County detective he could not remember what had happened to him. He later said he couldn’t say what happened to him because he feared people were going to hurt him, the affidavit states. He allegedly added that he damaged his cellphone because “he was afraid that the police were going to find what was on it.”

Earlier that day, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies had responded to a welfare check at McCaw’s residence in Orting, where they found his body in the laundry room, according to the affidavit. He had a gunshot wound to his head and stab wounds to his stomach and chest. Detectives also found two empty gun holsters in the house, according to the affidavit, which said that investigators suspect the teens stole the weapons.

The affidavit also states that a person who knew McCaw told them that the man once had a relationship with the mother of one of the teens, and detectives began to investigate whether there was a connection.

A day after authorities discovered the body, that boy’s father contacted a Thurston County detective, saying that his son had been “involved” in McCaw’s death, according to the affidavit. He said the man’s “biker buddies” had threatened to hurt his son if he didn’t steal an unspecified item from the man’s house, the affidavit states, so the teens plotted to break in. Authorities have not specified whether there are additional suspects.

The teens were arrested Sept 2. One of them showed detectives where he and his friend hid the firearms they had allegedly stolen from the residence, according to the affidavit. Investigators said the holsters they found at the house matched the guns, according to the affidavit. Both were registered to McCaw.

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