Man faces murder charges in trailer fire, deaths of mother and three children

A Port Angeles, Washington man has been booked for arson and four counts of first-degree murder after a deadly fire in a trailer park early Saturday morning killed a mother and her three young children.

Matthew Timothy Wetherington, 34, has been detained in the Clallam County jail. The prosecutors have 72 hours starting Monday to file charges. In the U.S., booking refers to the process by which police register and enter charges against a person believed to have violated the law.

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Investigators learned Wetherington ran from the scene when fire suddenly erupted in a mobile home at the Welcome Inn RV Park, police said in a statement on their Facebook page.

Valerie Kambeitz, 34, and her children Lilly, nine, Emma, six, and Jayden, five, died in the fire.

Police named Wetherington as a person of interest in the case Saturday afternoon and put out a public appeal for information. He was found camped in the woods in nearby Lincoln Park. There are no other suspects at large, police said.

“The law is clear that anyone who commits arson that results in the death of a victim is guilty of Murder 1,” said the police statement.

Wetherington’s criminal history includes convictions for child molestation, unlawful imprisonment, assault, attempted robbery and burglary with a sexual motivation, statement said.

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the fire about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

“Officers happened to be close by, so they arrived pretty quickly. They found one of the trailers fully engulfed in flames and smoke,” said Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith. “As they were sizing up the scene, a second trailer caught on fire. We think the heat from the first fire caught the second trailer on fire. One occupant in the second trailer was able to crawl out a window and escape without injury.”

Both trailers were substantially burned, the police chief said.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call 360-452-4545 and ask to talk to a detective.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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