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Murder victim a new father

"When Edward Ross died alone in the dark on a cold logging road in Cowlitz County two weeks ago, he left behind more than just a baffling murder for multiple law enforcement agencies to solve.He left behind parents, grandparents, friends, and a 3-week-old son.Ross’ former girlfriend, Katie Coale of Langley, gave birth to their son just a week-and-a-half before his murder. That child, whom the couple named Michael, is just one part of a man Coale wants South Whidbey to know as more than just a crime victim.Speaking from her home late Thursday night -- just six hours after she attended Ross’ memorial service in Tacoma -- Coale said her son, her family and South Whidbey lost a good, caring man just as he was turning his life around.Short on sleep from days of interviews with police and worry over Ross’ murder, Coale finally began to settle down after the service, and thought about the Ed Ross she knew. She glanced at corners of the house where she remembered watching Ross do his laundry, eat something off the plate that always seemed to be in his hands, or play video games. She held her son, who was born a month prematurely and is just getting the hang of fussing and crying.With the help of her mother, Candice Cavanaugh, the 20-year-old woman pored over notes she’d made about the man she knew Ross to be. While her daughter collected her thoughts, Cavanaugh offered her opinion of a man she said she would have been happy to have as a son.“He was a real deep thinker. And he was one of the most generous men I’ve ever met,” Cavanaugh said.Katie and Ed met at workKatie Coale and Ed Ross met in late 1997, when both of them were working at Casey’s grocery store. They started dating in February of the following year and continued until the following February. Coale said she loved Ross’ generous heart, his humor, and the industry he displayed in starting his life over again.Ross came to the island looking to shake an old drug habit, Coale said. He largely succeeded, but fell back into using methamphetamines and “speed” from time to time. The relapses placed stress on Coale’s relationship with Ross and eventually led to their breakup.“I would be really angry with him and he would wonder why,” Coale said.But she continued to care for him, and that feeling became more intense after Ross found out he was going to be a father. She said his preparing to raise a child might have been the final step toward turning his life around for good.“When he found out he was having a son, he started planning what he would buy and all the things he was going to do with him,” she said.Coale said that on the day Ross was kidnapped from the ferry line in Mukilteo, the trunk of his car was full of diapers, toys and other baby supplies. Michael was just a week old that day, and Coale said Ross’ timing was perfect.Before the baby, the couple lived in Ross’ one room apartment most of the time. Coale said Ross was almost too generous with the little he had, lending money to friends even when he knew he did not have enough to pay the rent, or giving up his own bed to people who needed a place to stay at night. Coale said she recalls many times when she had to step over Ross’ friends in the middle of the night as they slept on the floor of the little apartment. She said he would never say “no” to anyone.“He wanted everybody to like him,” she said.And everyone did. He never lacked a partner to play video games with for hours on end, or a companion for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Then, when Coale became pregnant, Ross saw his life fill up even further.“I never saw him so jazzed,” said Cavanaugh, putting in words where her daughter could not.She knew the killersBoth sides of the murder have left Coale heartbroken and sad. She said she could hardly believe who had committed the murder when she heard the names of the alleged killers this week. Among the suspects are Jesse Osalde and Paul Sarkis, Jr. who were her classmates at South Whidbey High School, and she can still remember sitting with them in math class. “I used to sit in class and joke with these people,” Coale said.Because she had never known the suspects to have violent tendencies, their involvement was even more of a shock. She said she cannot believe they took Ross to Cowlitz County with the intention of killing him. Their motive may lie in some deeper feelings they had toward the affable and generous Ross.“It was pretty much a big mistake,” Coale said. “They were just going out there to show him it wasn’t all about him.” Police suspect the motive was drug related. Ross probably did not know events would end up this way, Coale said, or he would have gotten himself out of the situation. However, she conceded that he was in with the wrong people.“For Ed to get himself in that situation, he must not really have known what was going on.”Cavanaugh is less forgiving than her daughter. She believes the alleged killers had some sort of “beef” with Ross and did not think about what they were doing.“These guys that killed him made the world much poorer,” she said.Ross’ death, she said, has now made her a believer in “eye-for-an-eye” justice -- the killers should be punished severely for taking a good person away from the people who love him.Glad rumors finally overAlmost more draining than learning of the murder was hearing about its details through rumor. Coale and Cavanaugh said the phone rang off the hook at their house for days after the crime. They heard all sorts of wild tales about the murder, about mutilation and dismemberment. Little of it was true, but all of it hurt.“We heard hideous things about what happened to him,” Cavanaugh said. “It was a wonderful relief to get the truth.”But even those stories were telling about the person Ross was. Judging by the amount of talk surrounding the crime, it was obvious to the mother and daughter that hundreds of people knew and cared about Ross. About a quarter of the people who showed up at Thursday’s memorial service were from Whidbey Island, they said.“We saw a lot of people who cared about him,” Coale said.Coale said she is grateful Ross had a chance to meet his son. She said she will keep in contact with his parents so they at least can know Michael as he grows older."

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