The body of a pregnant Washington woman who went missing in August was found over a steep hillside – and her ex-boyfriend, believed to be the father of her unborn baby, has been charged in her disappearance and murder, say police.
On Tuesday, a team of detectives from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office located the body of Kassanndra Cantrell, 33, of Parkland, in a heavily wooded ravine along Chambers Creek Road in University Place, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Later that day, a heavily armed SWAT team arrested her ex-boyfriend, Colin Patrick Dudley, 37, of Tacoma, at his home.
Dudley is charged with first-degree murder and is being held at the Pierce County Jail, online jail records show.
“This is a sad ending but this is the ending we expected,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Det. Ed Troyer said, The News Tribune reports. “At least now we can get closure for the family.”
Cantrell was in the first trimester of her pregnancy when she went missing the morning of August 25, her mother, Marie Smith, told PEOPLE before her daughter’s body was found.
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On the morning Cantrell vanished, Smith said she thought her daughter had gone to an ultrasound appointment to determine whether she was having twins or multiples, she told PEOPLE.
When Cantrell uncharacteristically failed to return home and no one could reach her, her family reported her missing.
“I knew something was wrong,” Smith told PEOPLE.
On Aug. 28, a day after Cantrell was reported missing, her white Mazda was found abandoned in downtown Tacoma at the other end of town.
Smith said she found that very odd. “I told police, ‘There is no reason for her to ever be in that area,’” she said.
On Sept. 1, detectives – accompanied by a SWAT team and a team of forensic investigators from the FBI – executed a search warrant at Dudley’s house and took away many items, including his truck.
At the time, authorities did not disclose the identity of the person whose home they were searching.
But, on Aug. 25, surveillance video showed “a person of interest” walking from Cantrell’s abandoned car to a nearby parking garage, the sheriff’s office says in its statement.
The person of interest was seen leaving the parking garage in a truck with a license plate that investigators allegedly traced back to Dudley.
"The person of interest in the video was identified as an ex-boyfriend of Cantrell," the sheriff’s office says in its statement. "He was also the registered owner of the truck seen in the video."
GPS data obtained from Dudley’s truck led detectives to the wooded area along Chambers Creek Road West in University Place, about 10 miles from Dudley’s house, where they conducted a detailed ground search.
“At approximately 2:00 p.m., our detectives found a set of human remains that were wrapped and disposed of over a steep hillside along Chambers Creek,” the statement says.
Search & Rescue Team members from the PCSO and the Tacoma Police Department performed a high-angle ropes operation to recover the remains, which are believed to be those of Cantrell, pending official confirmation from the Medical Examiner’s Office, the statement reads.
On-and Off-Again Relationship
Cantrell had dated Dudley years ago, but ended up breaking up with him, her mother told PEOPLE.
“She said, ‘He's just a jerk,’” Smith said.
In recent years, they started hanging out again as friends, Cantrell previously told her mother.
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“I mean, he said some weird stuff,” her mother told PEOPLE. “He apparently said that if … the girl ever told him that he got her pregnant, he'd steal the baby and raise it to hate women.”
When Cantrell got pregnant, she told her mother how excited she was to become a mom, but was vague about the identity of the father.
But Smith later learned that Cantrell had confided in other relatives – and her friends – that Dudley was actually the father of the baby.
When police spoke to Dudley about Cantrell, he allegedly told them he hadn’t seen or spoken to Cantrell in years, search warrants obtained by local station Q13Fox show.
Phone records showed otherwise, according to the warrants.
Dudley has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
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