Seattle Man Charged With Wife's Murder -- Suspect Flees After Meeting With Lawyer

The husband of a Seattle woman missing since Oct. 15 has been formally accused of killing her and disposing of her body in Hood Canal.

The second-degree murder charges filed yesterday against George Dalton Gehrett, 38, say it is unlikely that the body of Stephanie Rooks Gehrett, 43, will be recovered.

Bail has been set at $1 million for Gehrett, who disappeared Friday after a meeting with his lawyer to arrange his possible surrender.

"The defendant excused himself to use the restroom and fled, leaving his coat and keys behind. He has not been heard from since, and his current whereabouts is unknown," said senior deputy prosecuting attorney Rebecca Roe.

Court papers said the Gehretts had been married 13 years but began having marital difficulties about a year ago, with George Gehrett becoming increasingly violent and striking and shaking their two sons, 9 and 7.

Rooks Gehrett filed for a legal separation and arranged with a process server to deliver papers to her husband about 4 p.m. Oct. 15 at the business they ran with another partner.

At about 5:45 p.m., Rooks Gehrett called a company employee at an exhibit the company was staging at the state Convention and Trade Center. She said she'd be at the exhibit in downtown Seattle within 15 minutes.

"No one has spoken to Mrs. Gehrett since this conversation," Roe charged.

At about 8 that night, a neighbor at the Gehretts' Kitsap County summer home reported hearing a boat being dragged across the beach, heard a motor start and saw lights come on in the Gehrett house, which has an alarm system but didn't sound a warning.

"She assumed the Gehretts had arrived for the weekend," she told police.

A dinghy had been moved, and when a Kitsap County deputy sheriff looked around the house Oct. 17, he and a neighbor reported finding what looked like blood on the boat, as well as a single brown shoe that looked like one worn by Rooks Gehrett.

George Gehrett arrived at his brother's home in Auburn about midnight Oct. 15, saying he was upset and had been driving around all evening.

On Oct. 16, Rooks Gehrett's family reported her missing. Her 1991 minivan was found parked at the business.

Police homicide detectives discovered other evidence that tended to show Rooks Gehrett had been attacked, including pieces of a broken potted plant at the business, blood and hair samples in the hinge of a 1993 minivan owned by her husband and more traces of blood and hair in the dinghy.

"Based on all the above circumstances, probable cause exists to believe the defendant killed Rooks Gehrett and deposited her body in Hood Canal," Roe charged.

The charges warn that George Gehrett "has demonstrated the clear capacity for violent, irrational and unpredictable behavior. His flight demonstrates he does not want to be held accountable."