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Double murder, suicide shocks South Whidbey
At the beginning of this week, Holly Swartz seemed to be happier than at any time in her life.
She was planning to take a one-year anniversary vacation with her fiance, Preston Dean "Hugh" Douglas, and was seen by several acquaintances walking hand-in-hand in public with the man she intended to marry. Last Friday and Saturday, the couple danced through the night and into the early morning at Bayview Hall and at Freeland's China City.
They seemed the perfect couple.
On Thursday morning, Swartz was dead at Preston's hands, shotgunned by Preston during a double murder-suicide that left all South Whidbey in shock this week.
Preston, a 27-year-old Jamaican immigrant who had lived on Whidbey Island for about two years, went on a rampage early Thursday morning that left Swartz, her mother Marjorie Monnett and himself dead on a residential Freeland street.
The slaughter happened only hours after Swartz had begun the process of filing a restraining order against Preston for allegedly sexually abusing her 6-year-old daughter.
Shortly before 2 a.m., the sounds of screaming and several shotgun blasts awoke the residents of Vesel Court. On the street that winds through the quiet, rural neighborhood, Douglas, a Clinton resident, gunned down Swartz, 30, and her mother, Marjorie Monnett, 55. Then, with witnesses watching from their homes, Douglas turned the gun on himself and took his own life.
According to Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley, the killings happened less than a day after Swartz accused Douglas of molesting her daughter. On Wednesday, Hawley said, Swartz and her daughter moved out of the Wilson Place, Clinton, apartment she shared with Douglas and took their belongings to her mother's house at 5552 Vesel Court. She had started the process of filing a restraining order against Douglas.
During a confrontation that started when Douglas arrived on foot at the house with a 12-gauge shotgun, two other people living in the house were also shot. Bruce Monnett, Swartz's 22-year-old brother, and his girlfriend, Sierra Klug, 18, survived serious gunshot wounds and were airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where they were admitted in critical condition. A spokesperson for the hospital said both Klug and Monnett underwent surgery Thursday and were in stable condition by Friday.
Swartz's daughter was also at home at the time of the shootings. She ran out of the house and alerted a neighbor down the street. That neighbor called 911.
Hawley said the scene was something a young child should not see.
"This is an incredibly horrific situation for a 6-year-old," he said during a Thursday-morning press conference with members of television and print media.
A planned slaughter
It took until late Thursday for the sheriff's office to come up with a scenario for what happened in the neighborhood that night. Hawley said Douglas drove his Dodge van to within about two blocks of Monnett's residence shortly before 2 a.m., parked on Cameron Road, then walked to the house with a military-style shotgun in hand. With a full box of ammunition, he said, Douglas had come armed to kill the entire family: Investigators found 16 shotgun shells at the scene, more than a dozen of which had been fired.