No charges yet in Cape George homicide

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No charges were filed during a June 10 arraignment for the 23-year-old Cape George woman accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death June 5.

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper had released Celinda Kaitlin Marie LaDue from jail during an initial hearing on June 7 in Jefferson County Courthouse, and ordered that she live with her father in Sedro-Woolley while she awaited trial in the killing of John Rowland, 29, during an alcohol-fuelled fight.

But at her arraignment on June 10, prosecuting attorney Chris Ashcraft said the state was not going to file any charges yet, relieving her of all conditions Harper had placed on her prior to her release after her arrest on the night Rowland died.

“Our goal is to have the investigation be absolutely complete and then continue with any possible charges,” Ashcraft said in an interview after the hearing, explaining why the state is in no hurry. “The statute of limitations is long on this case. The Sheriff’s Office is working really hard on this investigation.”

An autopsy on Rowland’s body has been completed, and investigators are waiting for the toxicology results, Allen said.

If she is charged, the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office’s filings list her likely charge as second-degree manslaughter.

Rowland has two brothers in Port Townsend. His father lives in Pierce County, according to Allen.

Rowland fathered twin boys with a previous girlfriend. LaDue had set up a GoFundMe page in September of 2018 to raise money so Rowland could hire a lawyer to fight for paternal rights.

“It would mean the world to Johnny and his boys to be able to have a relationship, and I would be so grateful to anyone who helped us make it possible,” wrote LaDue in a post on the GoFundMe page, which was titled “Help Johnny get to visit his boys!”

At the Old Whiskey Mill, where Rowland worked as a server, some co-workers declined to work when they heard of his death. “I’m stunned,” said Kris Nelson, owner of the Old Whiskey Mill and Sirens Pub, where he got his start as a dishwasher. “I watched him grow and improve his life and take on so much more. I was so impressed with how much he had grown.”

Nelson said Rowland was a good server, and was working on becoming a bartender. She said he had had some trouble in the past, but had turned his life around and had a lot of friends in town, many of whom also worked at the Old Whiskey Mill with him.

“He was continuing to be fantastic, and learn new things,” she said.

Nelson said Rowland and LaDue had split up in the past, but gotten back together. “We were worried and disappointed when they got back together, but none of us ever thought something like this was possible,” she said. “We were worried, but not for his life. We were more worried for his emotional health.”

At the time of the Monday morning hearing, there were no new developments, said investigator Derek Allen.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Allen said. “I met with the prosecuting attorney to discuss the case and it was their decision not to file charges at this time.”

The detective investigating the case said LaDue had called for an ambulance at 10:18 that evening, telling dispatchers she had stabbed Rowland in the stomach and was holding pressure on the wound.

Rowland was face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood at 10:25 p.m. when the first Jefferson County deputy arrived at the Johnson Avenue home the couple shared, according to documents submitted at her initial hearing. A knife presumed to be the weapon used on Rowland was found under his body.

Medics soon arrived and by 10:46 p.m. had declared him dead at the scene.

The couple had been drinking at a neighbor’s home before returning to their house. During an emotional conversation about his past, Rowland attacked her on their porch, LaDue told Jefferson County Detective Shane Stevenson.

Stevenson said she told him she retreated to the kitchen after a first tussle, grabbed a steak knife from a butcher block and, when Rowland advanced again, stabbed him.

“This is horrible. He is a good person and he has a good heart, and he’s dead,” Stevenson quoted her in his report.

Investigators found evidence on the porch and in the house consistent with the fight she described, but no visible marks or injuries on Ladue, Stevenson said.

An hour and a half after her call to 911, LaDue’s blood alcohol concentration was measured at .126, about 50 percent above the legal limit for drivers in Washington.

Reviewing Stevenson’s report and other materials at the first hearing, Superior Court Judge Keith Harper released her from jail. “This is an unusual situation,” Judge Harper said at that time, speaking to her via Skype. “I’ve read the probable cause statement. I don’t see you as being a flight risk or a threat to others or yourself.”

Superior Court rules in Washington require accused persons in non-capital cases to be released on their own recognizance unless it is shown they are a flight risk or a danger.

“She’s a victim of domestic violence,” said Richard Davies, her court-appointed defense counsel for the probable cause hearing. “She called 911, fully cooperated with law enforcement. She’s got no criminal history.”

LaDue worked at Jefferson Healthcare since 2015 in “Care Team Support,” which means she is “responsible for assisting the work flow of the care team including: customer service, registration, patient scheduling, working referrals, and insurance authorizations,” according to Amy Yaley, director of Marketing and Communication at Jefferson Healthcare.

At the time of his death, LaDue and Rowland lived together, which is why the case is categorized as a domestic violence case.

Ashcraft presented Judge Harper with a signed statement which included transcripts and summaries of Sergeant Brett Anglin’s initial interview with LaDue and Stevenson’s interview.

Anglin said she was kneeling by Rowland when he, the first on the scene, arrived at the Johnson Avenue home.

Since the judge dropped her original conditions of release, LaDue no longer has to live with her father in Sedro-Woolley. Her family declined to comment on the case.

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