Pharmacist's Slaying Still A Mystery

NO ONE has an explanation for why someone fired bullets last month into a parked car, killing a 33-year-old Renton father. "It's just about impossible to think that someone would want to kill this guy," says the investigating homicide detective.

It's been nearly a month since Geoffrey James Ramseth, a pharmacist, faithful Catholic and father of three girls, was shot and killed in a restaurant parking lot while visiting with a friend.

And nobody - not police, not his family, his co-workers, or his neighbors - says they have any idea who did it, or why.

"It's just about impossible to think that someone would want to kill this guy," said Dick Gagnon, investigating Seattle homicide detective. "We checked him out thoroughly and there's no reason we could find that he would be targeted.

"I mean, he's squeaky-clean - the kind of person my mother wanted me to be."

Ramseth, 33, had gone to Cucina Cucina, a restaurant and bar on South Lake Union, May 28 after he closed his family's Renton pharmacy. He was meeting friends from a co-ed soccer team he played on last year for a going-away party for a teammate.

After the bar closed, Ramseth and a pregnant female friend - whom police will not identify - walked together out to their cars, which were parked near each other.

Police said Ramseth sat in the pregnant woman's car for a few minutes, chatting, while her car warmed up. It was just after 2 a.m.

Ramseth's 31-year-old widow, Tamara, and police, dismiss the possibility that Ramseth and the woman were romantically involved.

"Geoff is the kind of guy who would have waited," Tamara Ramseth said. "He would have made sure she got in her car, got it started and got on her way safely."

Parked next to the woman's car, on the driver's side, was a small green or blue pickup, perhaps a Nissan or a Toyota, with an extended cab, police said.

The woman told police that a white man in his 30s with shoulder-length blond hair sat inside, and it looked to her and Ramseth as if the man was waiting for someone who worked in the restaurant.

According to police, the stranger rolled down his passenger-side window and Ramseth's friend started to roll her window down as well, thinking he needed directions.

Ramseth, apparently seeing a beam of light pointed at them and realizing the man was pointing a gun with a laser sighting at them, cried out a warning, pulled the woman's head down onto the seat, and held up his hand over his face.

"He definitely saved her life," Gagnon said. "He was a hero."

Of the more than a half-dozen shots the shooter fired into the car, two hit Ramseth in the head, and three struck him in the chest. Any one of the five could have been fatal, police said.

On the day of Ramseth's funeral, more than 1,000 people filled St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Renton, where Ramseth and his family were longtime parishioners.

High-school teachers, college friends from the University of Washington, neighbors, children in his daughters' classes, and athletes from the sports teams he coached came to mourn his death.

"He was a truly happy person," said his widow. "He liked people and expected people to like him. And they did. He was always ready to help people. If he knew someone was moving or painting their house, he would just put on old clothes and show up to help."

When Tamara Ramseth began working at a doctor's office in Bellevue last year after being home with the children for years - the tuition for sending their three daughters to St. Anthony's parochial school was steep - Geoff Ramseth had to take over the morning routine of getting the girls ready for school.

He loved the chance to volunteer in his girls' classes, where he was a popular playmate and helper.

Ramseth played soccer, volleyball and coached the church's softball team. He served on the church's parish and pastoral councils, and he helped organize the youth group.

"He was one of those model people you could always count on," said Mike Borte, church director of faith formation. "He had a deep care and concern for other people and he was always willing to help."

Ramseth went to the UW and, like his father, became a pharmacist. Together they owned three family pharmacies in South King County.

Ramseth was known for the time he took with his customers, his widow said.

He made home deliveries to the ill, and spent endless time on the phone with people reassuring them, explaining side effects and checking for adverse drug interactions.

Tamara Ramseth met her husband 10 years ago when he was doing his pharmacy internship in Deer Park north of Spokane. She had a 3-year-old child from a previous marriage, and Ramseth loved and was willing to be a parent to her daughter, she said.

She converted to Catholicism and the two married. They eventually had two more daughters - Alicia is now 12, Melanie is 8 and Jessie is 6.

Tamara Ramseth, like others, is at a loss to explain to the children why someone would have wanted to kill their dad. What she has told them is that he died saving someone else's life.

Detective Gagnon said that while police are at an impasse now, they're hoping someone will recognize the man in the pickup from his description or the description of his truck and gun.

"We hope somebody out there knows something," Gagnon said. "And we want them to call us. Our worst fear is that there's somebody out there with a gun taking potshots at people."

Anyone with information should call the Seattle homicide department at 206-684-5550 or Crimestoppers at 206-343-2020.