Bail has been set at $2 million for a 41-year-old man suspected in the slayings of two Yakima men whose bodies were found in a car six weeks ago in the Yakima River Canyon.
Troy Allen Whalen was arrested Wednesday evening following a search of his northeast Yakima home.
Yakima police said Whalen had been one of two men sought in the shooting deaths of Michael Kevin Eby Jr., 36, and Ryan Michael Pederson, 35. Their bodies were found in a car just off State Route 821 near the Yakima River’s Roza Dam on Dec. 21.
A second suspect remains at large. The Yakima Herald-Republic is withholding his name until he is in custody.
As for motive, police Capt. Rod Light said, “It appears some drug issues were involved, money issues.”
According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Yakima County Superior Court, detectives believe Eby was killed at Whalen’s home in the 2900 block of Hathaway Street. Detectives said Whalen told them Eby was killed in his garage and that he provided material to wrap Eby’s body.
The affidavit also alleged that Whalen told detectives that he helped dispose of Eby’s body in the Yakima River Canyon and that Pederson was still alive in the back seat of the vehicle when they left his house.
“He did not know where he (Pederson) was killed at,” a detective wrote in the affidavit, adding “Whalen admitted knowing Pederson was dead after they dumped the vehicle.”
The bodies were discovered after a passing motorist reported an abandoned car with its motor running.
A state trooper responded to the scene and found Pederson’s body in the back seat with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Detectives said he had been shot three times and that several 9mm shell casings were found in the car, suggesting he was shot there.
Eby’s body was found in the trunk of the car, which belonged to his father. Detectives said Eby had been shot four times. His body was wrapped in a combination of garbage bags, a fitted bed sheet and a blanket tied with rope, an electrical cord and wire. His ankles were bound as well.
The area is north of Selah in the Yakima River Canyon and just across the Kittitas County line. Yakima police have been working on the case with Kittitas County sheriff’s detectives because the victims were from Yakima.
Detectives broke the case through a combination of cellphone records and witness statements, according to the probable-cause affidavit.
Both men were known to have cellphones with them the night they were killed, yet no cellphones were found in the car, detectives said.
After obtaining a search warrant for cellphone records, investigators determined that Eby’s cellphone had been used seven times the night of Dec. 20 in an area that included Hathaway Street, according to the probable-cause affidavit. It stopped emitting a signal at 10:34 p.m. that night.
That information was critical, because a witness told detectives about meeting a man named Whalen on Hathaway Street three days earlier, according to the affidavit.
After obtaining a search warrant, detectives on Wednesday searched Whalen’s home and reported finding a spent bullet in plain sight near a large blood stain on the floor. The bullet was a type called a full metal jacket and detectives noted they recovered similar bullet fragments from Eby’s body, according to the affidavit.
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.