Crime & Courts

Mat-Su couple arrested in Washington state after killing of grandmother

WASILLA — Authorities in Washington state arrested two Mat-Su residents in the weekend shooting death of the grandmother of one of them.

Katherine Joanne Chace, 23, of Wasilla, told authorities she and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Willow resident Paul Rankin, conspired to kill her grandmother and father and then move to Texas, court documents show. Chace initially said she was kidnapped.

The grandmother was killed but her father, who was sleeping at the time of the predawn shooting, was unharmed, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock with the Pacific County Sheriff's Office.

Chace was arrested Saturday on suspicion of first-degree murder. Rankin was arrested Sunday on felony criminal conspiracy to commit murder.

The incident took place near Ocean Park, Washington, a seaside town of about 2,000 on the Long Beach Peninsula just north of the Oregon border.

The victim was 64-year-old Klipsan Beach resident Paula J. Rice, Matlock said.

He said Chace moved to Ocean Park earlier this year to rekindle her relationship with her biological father, who lives with his mother there. Rankin arrived in late October.

"We believe there was some kind of disagreement between the dad and the grandmother regarding her relationship with Rankin," Matlock said when asked about a possible motive. "We believe money may have been involved. The grandmother had a large trust fund and we believe there was some tension there."

The arrests were first reported in the Chinook Observer newspaper.

No criminal charges had been filed against Chace or Rankin as of Tuesday, but Matlock said he expected formal charges to be set on Friday. Both remained jailed on $1 million bail and scheduled for arraignments on Friday, according to court orders in the case.

[Mat-Su teen missing; vehicle found burned on trail]

Chace called 911 Saturday and said she'd been kidnapped with her three young children by a man who held a knife to her throat and fired two shots inside the house with her 9 mm pistol, while she was outside putting the kids in a car, according to a statement filed with Monday by the Pacific County prosecutor's office. She said the man demanded they drive to a nearby park, stole $1,500 from her purse and threw her keys into the dune grass before fleeing.

Officers arrived at the park and found Chace with her children, according to the declaration. Rankin is their father, Matlock said.

Officers with multiple agencies went to the house and found Chace's grandmother dead on a bed, the declaration said. They also found a spent 9mm round.

Chace was interviewed and initially repeated the kidnap story but then said she made it up because she "was unaware of what might have happened at the residence," said the statement, signed by Pacific County sheriff's deputy Ryan Tully. She said she went to sleep the night before and "next woke up driving her Jeep with her gun in her pocket," pulled into Loomis Lake State Park, threw her gun in the brush and called 911.

Chace asked to be interviewed again during her booking at Pacific County jail, the document says. This time she said she made a plan with Rankin to kill her grandmother and father and then move to Texas. She also said Rankin came to Washington to kill them but decided he couldn't do it himself and urged her to do it, according to the statement.

"Chace described walking up to her grandmother's room. She stepped in the doorway, pointed the gun at her grandmother and fired two shots," the document says. "Chace was then too scared to kill her dad."

Her father didn't know about the shooting or any plot between Chace and Rankin, Matlock said. "He's not believed to be part of this conspiracy."

Chace said she went to the park to look for Rankin but couldn't find him and threw the gun in the brush, according to the statement.

Chace was booked Saturday. Authorities interviewed Rankin that day and he confirmed plans to move to Texas but denied any knowledge of Chace killing her grandmother, the statement says. The next day he met with a polygraph examiner, but decided he didn't want to take the polygraph.

Rankin "sat huddled over in his chair" and stayed silent when the polygrapher said he knew about Rankin's plot to kill Chace's relatives, the statement says. He later requested an attorney and was assigned a public defender, as was Chace.