Three Arrests in 16-Year Mystery of Decapitated Woman Found in Puget Sound

·4 min read
Kitsap County Police
Kitsap County Police

More than 16 years after the headless corpse of a 33-year-old woman was found floating inside a Rubbermaid tote container in Puget Sound, three men have been arrested for murder.

The arrest warrants were issued June 2022 by Special Agent Jimmy Kilgallen with the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, who presented the dossier to the Seattle prosecutor who acted on the documents this week.

A fourth man implicated in the gruesome crime died in the years after the murder, authorities said.

The body of Shanan Lynn Read was discovered by local authorities on Jan. 15, 2006. Her head washed up on shore two months later on a nearby beach. According to the criminal complaint, Brian Bourquard, a 39-year-old robotics executive living in Philadelphia, along with Anthony Martinez, who has since died, threatened and beat up Read over a perceived theft from a scam the men were involved with that included forging financial documents. Bourquard was taken into custody on Monday in Philadelphia. He faces first-degree murder charges.

According to the criminal complaint tied to her death, Martinez beat Read—who had struggled with substance abuse for years—with a metal pipe and then he and Bourquard stuffed Read into a large Rubbermaid tote container sometime in August 2005, with her head still intact. They took the container to Bourquard’s cabin on Puget Sound, where they tried to hasten the decomposition with chemicals. When Read’s body was deemed sufficiently decomposed, they then sealed the container and pushed it into the water.

The men then enlisted Brandon Reeve, who eventually confessed to police, leading to this week’s arrests. Reeve said that Read “could have been alive” after being beaten with the metal pipe, but no one bothered to check. Reeve, 42, was arrested in Sarasota, Florida, on Tuesday. He faces second-degree murder charges.

Reeve told authorities that he was tasked with sanitizing the apartment where Read was beaten, including disposing of evidence and wiping surfaces to try to clean away any DNA or fingerprints after they had taken the Rubbermaid container to the coast. A short time later, they started using lye and other chemicals on her corpse. He said Read’s body was intact when she was dumped, leading authorities to believe that a combination of the chemicals and marine life led to the decapitation.

In January 2006, shortly before Read’s body was found, Michael Thomasan was enlisted to help transport the tote container to the water. He was convicted as part of a plea deal for his confession of illegally disposing human remains.

Another man, Oscar Cash Gonzales, 34, was arrested Tuesday in Riverside, California, for his role in stuffing Read into the tote container. He faces first-degree murder charges.

Authorities at first assumed Read had died of poisoning or an overdose when her body was found. But two years later, a detective was convinced by Read’s family that the death was a murder. Kitsap County Sheriff’s Det. Lori Blankenship then opened a homicide investigation, in part for the victim’s four children—the youngest was just 5 when her mother died. “She made poor choices in her life, but she didn’t deserve to have her life taken,” Blankenship told the Seattle Times in 2008.

It was then that Bourquard first became a person of interest. But because Reeve had done such a thorough job cleaning the crime scene, authorities could not pin anything on Bourquard or search his cabin, even though witnesses tied the two men and a large tote container to the time when Read disappeared.

A break in the case came after investigators said Bourquard’s journal was found, in which he wrote about planning to kill Read. “Shanan owes $4,000 to some people. Unless she has it by Sunday, her daughter is dead and Anthony could lose his position. All because Shanan [expletive] off all the money. Where is the [expletive]? She put it all on the line and now we’re all going to burn unless we see a miracle. Do we all die if Shanan doesn’t get the money,” he wrote in August 2005, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Other witnesses came forward to say he had also “expressed violent/murder ideations to other people who felt he double-crossed him.” In another entry, he wrote, “Straight killer... don’t put it past me, but you won’t see it coming.”

All three men are being held on $10 million bond in the states where they were arrested, pending extradition to Washington State to face trial.

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