A white man in his 50s who walks with a limp and may use a cane is being sought as "a person of interest" in the baffling murder of a real-estate agent in Woodinville on Thursday.
The man police are seeking is from San Francisco but is staying with friends in the Seattle area. He is a counselor or involved with that profession.
Police would not reveal how they learned about the man, nor would they speculate on a motive for the homicide.
"We're scratching our heads on this one," said King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart. "It just doesn't fit.
"We don't know what this person's connection is, but we believe he has information on this homicide."
The body of Michael Emert, 40, was discovered by the owner of a home in the 19500 block of 157th Place Northeast. She told police the man was a stranger.
The home was listed by Remax real estate agent Dave Dupart, but it is typical for agents to show homes listed by others.
Police believe Emert was doing his job at the house, although whether he was previewing the home or showing it was not clear.
"We believe he was there legitimately," said Urquhart. "He was a realtor, the house was for sale."
Emert was a popular staff member of the Windermere Real Estate company and a friend to Dupart.
Most of Emert's family huddled yesterday in the home of Bob and Betty Chandler, Emert's in-laws.
Bob Chandler said he learned about the slaying watching television news.
"(Mike) was my favorite buddy," Chandler said. "He was one of those son-in-laws that doesn't come along too often. He was a good man."
Dupart declined to discuss the case, other than to say "my friend was the victim. I hope people will pray for his family because they need the prayers now."
Stuart Miner, a Windermere spokesman, said the company was saddened by the senseless crime. He said Emert joined Windermere in 1991, and that he and his wife, Mary Beth, a daughter and Mary Beth's mother, Beverly Chandler, sold real estate there. His uncle, Bill Emert, also works for the company in Issaquah.
"Mike was highly regarded as a professional who went out of his way to help the client," Miner said. "His colleagues defined him as an amazing person because of his energy, sense of humor and integrity. His untimely departure has left an enormous void in the Bellevue office and across the Windermere network."
Emert grew up in Walla Walla, graduating from high school in 1979. He also attended Washington State University.
His car, a 2000 black Cadillac Escalade SUV, was found Thursday night abandoned in a Kirkland parking lot after a witness reported seeing someone drive it from the scene.
Police would not comment on the murder scene or method, except to say it was "obvious homicidal violence." An autopsy is scheduled for this afternoon.
The crime did not appear to be a random act, Urquhart said.
The stately, three-story home is located in a woodsy cul de sac north of the Woodinville-Duvall Road, one of a few large, new houses in a neighborhood of older, ranch-style homes.
Neighbors said the owners had moved in about 1-1/2 years ago.
The "person of interest" is not someone who has been seen in the neighborhood, Urquhart said.
Local real-estate agencies were reminding agents to be cautious yesterday. "Statistically, this is not a dangerous profession. That's why this case has startled everyone," said Windermere spokesman Stuart Miner.
"Anytime you have a situation with an individual alone at a residence with an agent, there's always the unknown. But 99 percent of the time agents know the person they're dealing with."
Five female agents on the Eastside were raped in a series of incidents nearly a decade ago, and occasional assaults and purse snatchings have occurred. But assaults on a man are rare, Urquhart said.
"I can't ever remember a homicide of a real-estate agent in the home," he said.
Homicides are also rare in Woodinville. The most recent was in 1997 when a store owner killed an 18-year-old robber in a parking lot shootout at a downtown 7-Eleven.
Anyone who might know the man being sought is asked to call the King County Sheriff's Office at 206-296-3311 or 911.
A fund for Emert's family is being set up through Windermere, Miner said.