Two years later, real-estate agent's slaying still a mystery

Two years ago today, Bellevue real-estate agent Michael Emert was found stabbed to death in a Woodinville house that was for sale. A $50,000 reward and repeated broadcasts on the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" featuring the Emert slaying have failed to lead to an arrest.

But King County sheriff's officials say the case is anything but cold. Detectives are tracking leads in the search for the killer or killers and hope to soon make an announcement, said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Cameron Webster. He declined to offer specifics for fear of compromising the investigation.

Though the investigation has been prolonged, the slaying of the respected Windermere Real Estate agent instantly galvanized the state's real-estate community into raising safety standards for the more than 26,000 agents working in Washington.

For Emert's widow, Mary Beth Emert, the past two years have been an agonizing struggle to move on with her life, even as she waits for justice.

Michael Emert, 40, was found stabbed more than 20 times by the woman who owned the house. The day he was killed, he told fellow employees he was leaving to pick up a "weird dude" who wanted to see the house, police say.

After Emert's body was discovered, his black SUV was found in the parking lot of a Kirkland shopping center. Less than 24 hours later, police say they found Emert's wallet in a phone booth at Colman Dock on Seattle's waterfront.

They also found his cellphone, but wouldn't say when or where they found it.

Still missing are Emert's wedding ring — a gold band with three vertical diamonds worth thousands of dollars — and his gold and silver Breitling wristwatch, valued at $3,000.

Yesterday, Mary Beth Emert replaced the flowers she had left on her husband's grave over Christmas — his favorite holiday. She visits her husband's grave in Bellevue's Sunset Hills Memorial Park Cemetery on the fourth day of every month and on important dates, such as the couple's wedding anniversary.

The year after her husband's slaying was probably the toughest of her life, she said. The second year still has been difficult, "But at least I feel the fog has lifted some," she said. "Slowly but surely, I'm digging myself out."

She has learned to separate the fact that her husband is gone from the way he died.

"I've been putting his murder and his death in two separate places, because if I dwelt on the fact he was murdered, I'm pretty sure I'd never get out of bed," she said. But because there has been no arrest, she hasn't been able to fully move on.

"It's just like being blown up from the inside out," she said. "I do feel not having that closure is definitely standing in the way of me saying my final goodbye to Mike."

The killing of Emert, a 6-foot-1 athlete, shocked the state's real-estate community into examining its perception that female agents were more vulnerable to attacks, said Joe Deasy, co-owner of six Eastside Windermere offices, including the office where Emert worked along with his wife and mother-in-law.

Soon after Emert's killing, a coalition of members from the Seattle/King County Association of Realtors, the Washington Association of Realtors, the King County Sheriff's Office and several other organizations created personal safety guides for agents, Deasy said.

Though Windermere and most other companies had safety procedures in place before Emert's death, his slaying "made us realize we needed to take our safety precautions to an entirely different level," Deasy said.

Now, agents will meet new clients only in their offices. Clients must show identification and provide license-plate numbers before an agent will show them a house, Deasy said.

Agents are told to program 911 into their cellphones and to create prearranged distress signals — for instance, saying, "I need the red file" — with people back in the office, he said.

Immediately after Emert's slaying, agents were on edge. With the passage of time, that fear has diminished, though the dangers remain, Deasy said.

"We have all kinds of posters and consistent reminders that there are dangers in our industry, and we have to take steps to protect ourselves," he said. "Mike's death has had a lasting effect on how people do business."

Mary Beth Emert and her 13-year-old daughter will visit Emert's grave again tomorrow before heading to Snoqualmie for a girls basketball game. Michael Emert coached his daughter's team for the two years before his death and often took her to see the Sonics play, his widow said.

Though another year has come and gone, Emert remains hopeful that her husband's killer will be caught.

"I'm trying to be patient, and I just know someday they'll call and have good news for me," she said. "I know when they catch someone, I'll be reliving the whole thing. But I'm so ready to go and fight for justice for Mike."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or