Crime

Boise Foothills slayings: ‘How could something like that happen?’

When investigators searched the Nampa home of Adam M. Dees on the night of March 11 — less than 24 hours after he was taken into custody in connection with a triple murder in Boise — they also seized items from Dees’ roommates in the sweep.

Investigators took guns, knives and computer equipment from all three men living at the house, one of the roommates told the Statesman. Some of the guns were hunting rifles, he said.

“They said we’d get them back in a month to six months,” said the roommate, who grew up in Caldwell and earned a degree in electrical engineering from ITT Technical Institute. He spoke on condition that the Statesman not use his name in this story.

The 25-year-old said he works at Plexus, an electronics company just over a mile from the house that the trio rent. He and a coworker moved into the house about a year and a half ago. Because of their student loan debt and difficulty making rent, they decided to let another coworker, Dees, 22, move in five to six months ago.

Dees has not been charged with murder in the deaths of Ted Welp, 80, wife Elaine, 77, and their son, Tom, 52, all of whom were found dead at their Boise Foothills home on March 10. Dees is charged with felony grand theft and forgery, accused of using the Welps’ credit cards and trying to sell a diamond engagement ring from the Welps’ home. When Dees was arrested at a Best Buy in Boise, he was found to be carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and faces a misdemeanor charge for that.

From the beginning, the Sheriff’s Office has kept a tight lid on information about the crime scene and the evidence gathered there.

“The investigation is ongoing. We will share new information with the community as the investigation warrants,” Ada County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said Monday.

A Welp family member called authorities on the morning of March 10, after not hearing from them for two days and finding what officials said were suspicious circumstances at the house. Responding deputies found three people dead and signs of a struggle.

About 8:30 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office issued a press release about “suspicious deaths” at a Foothills home.

The next day, Sheriff Gary Raney described the murder scene as the most violent he’d seen in his 31-year career.

Raney initially said he could not reassure the community after Dees’ arrest that they had the person responsible for the killings. But three days after the bodies were found, Raney said in a message on Twitter that “people can feel safe again.” Neither he nor his staff have explained what evidence prompted Raney to change that assessment.

“He believes there is no remaining risk to the community connected to this crime,” Dearden said Monday.

No one else has been charged in connection with the murders, leading many to assume that Dees will eventually be charged with murder.

The Ada County Coroner’s Office has determined the causes of death for the three victims, but Coroner Dotti Owens said she is not releasing that information to the public due to an “open and ongoing investigation.” A sheriff’s spokesman said investigators have not asked the coroner to withhold the causes of death – a detail on a public record that is usually promptly released.

Dees is being held on $2 million bond at the Ada County Jail. His next court appearance is set for 8:30 a.m. April 15.

‘NOTHING STOOD OUT’

On the night that police searched Dees’ house, his 25-year-old roommate was visiting his parents in Caldwell. Investigators trailed him to Caldwell, where they notified him of their intent to search the Nampa house, he said.

Dees’ other roommate was at home at the time of the late-night raid, which alarmed neighbors who witnessed it. Police set up a trailer across the street, brought in an armored vehicle, and sent a team in paramilitary gear and carrying rifles into the house, said neighbor Adrian Contreras.

Ada County Sheriff’s detectives served the warrant and the Ada Metro SWAT assisted, Dearden said.

“It’s the most police I’ve ever seen,” said Contreras, who lives with his grandparents next door. Contreras, who shot video of the incident from a window in the 11 p.m. darkness, said he saw one of the residents of the house sitting on the lawn in handcuffs. No one was taken into custody, Dearden said.

Colter Bay is a well-kept subdivision with large homes just north of Interstate 84. Contreras said Dees and his roommates didn’t interact much with neighbors.

Dees spent much of his free time playing video games such as Battlefield, FarCry and Destiny, and went hunting with his dad, the 25-year-old roommate said. Dees had a dog, Angel, which his parents gave him at Christmas. His family now has the dog, Dearden said.

Dees didn’t ever have friends over, but seemed pretty much ordinary, the roommate said. “Nothing stood out,” he said.

Contreras said he heard Dees was laid off or fired from Plexus, but the roommate said Dees quit in November or December because he got tired of the work. Calls to Plexus for this story went unreturned.

At Dees’ March 12 arraignment, his attorney told the judge that Dees had been placed on suicide watch at the jail because he is bipolar and schizophrenic and didn’t have access to his medication. His Nampa roommate told the Statesman he never saw Dees take medication of any sort, nor was he aware of any mental health problems.

Dees’ father, Steve, declined to discuss his son’s mental health history for this story. Steve Dees previously told the Statesman his son told him he found the credit cards belonging to the Welps. At that time, Steve Dees said he did not believe his son was involved in the murders.

Adam Dees’ roommate declined to discuss what he knew of Dees’ activities and behavior between Sunday, March 8, and Tuesday, March 10, the general time period in which the Welps are believed to have been murdered.

“I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did,” Dees’ roommate said.

The roommate said investigators told him that he and the other man who lives at the house have been cleared in the Welp case. But the sheriff’s office would not confirm that.

“We cannot speak to that, as it is part of the on-going, active investigation,” spokeswoman Dearden said.

‘ILLUSIONS OF SAFETY’

The Welp murders unsettled some Valley residents, particularly those who live and play in the Boise Foothills near where the crime occurred in the Pierce Park/Cartwright roads area, popular with cyclists, walkers and horse enthusiasts .

“It rubs off some of the illusions of safety of Boise,” said Laura Malloy, as she and her dog finished a hike at the Cartwright Trailhead on a warm, sunny day last week.

Malloy said the deaths were definitely on her mind as she walked along the trails in Polecat Gulch. Her daughter takes riding lessons in the area.

She said she would like to know if the Welps were targeted, or if their deaths were a random act of violence.

“Did someone follow them?” she asked. “Is there something that could have been done to prevent it? Is there something we could do to be safer and more aware?”

The Cartwright Trailhead at Polecat Gulch Reserve is about a quarter mile from the Welps’ house, which sits on a ridge on the northeast side of the intersection of Pierce Park Road and North Cartwright Road.

The Welp property is a large country estate, but it’s not exactly remote. It’s just 6.5 miles, or about a 15-minute drive, from Downtown Boise, depending on which route you take.

That area is a nexus of recreational activity for hikers, joggers, road cyclists, mountain bikers and equestrians, and it’s on a common commuter route for those living at Hidden Springs. Horse trailers were parked along Cartwright Road right below the Welps’ house most days last week, as riders took advantage of the spring weather to get out on the trails.

Several members of an endurance riding group said they did not know the Welps, but were aware of the murders. It did not cast a pall over their excursion.

“I figure if we lived in LA, it would happen all the time,” said one woman, enjoying snacks after a three-hour ride. “There’s always something horrible you can dwell on.”

A pair of riders who came off the trails after that group left said they had been there on Sunday, March 8, around the time when the Welps are thought to have been murdered.

“Everything looked completely normal,” Boisean Tami Bromley said. She said she did not see Dees’ black-and-gold Subaru in the area that day.

TOO CLOSE TO HOME

The Gallegos family has lived on more than six acres near the corner of Pierce Park and Cartwright for about 38 years, where they have plenty of pasture for their three horses.

Pierce Park was a dirt road when Lolly and Virgil Gallegos moved in, and they didn’t get phone service for three years. They had to use a CB radio to call for help when a fire broke out nearby, recalled Lolly Gallegos, who raised four children there.

The family’s front drive has a gate — but the only time they make sure it’s shut is when sheep are herded through the Foothills in the spring and fall. Until now, they’ve had little cause for worry about their safety.

“I love it here,” said Lolly Gallegos, as wind chimes sang happily in the background. “It’s so peaceful here. How could something like that happen?”

Now, at night, she lets out all three of the family dogs to keep watch for strangers.

“How do you know someone isn’t hiding in the bushes?” Lolly Gallegos said. “At night, you don’t even want to open the door.”

A lot of activity has occurred, with construction trucks traveling back and forth to the Welps’ house in recent months as they built a house for Tom on their nearly 20 acres. A separate access road was built for that house.

“There was so much going on. It was hard to tell how many people were coming and going,” Lolly Gallegos said. The days are long past when the family knew virtually everyone who ventured by.

The Sheriff’s Office declined comment on whether it believes the Welps were randomly selected or if the construction activity might have provided a murderer with access or information to the Welps’ property.

She said her family talked to the Welps just a couple times since they moved to the hilltop estate a year ago. Both encounters involved the Welps retrieving their dog, which would sometimes wander down the hill.

Gallegos’ son-in-law, Andrew Smith, said he ran into Tom Welp a couple times. Tom used to ride a four-wheeler down the hill to get the mail, he said.

Like many, Lolly Gallegos wonders if the attack on the Welps was targeted or random.

“If it was just random, why didn’t he (the killer) stop here?” Lolly Gallegos asked.

She and others speculate that the Welp home could have been targeted because the house is a good distance from the road — a paved driveway winds up the hillside — and not visible or within earshot of other homes, though neighbor Jon Neviaser did say sound does carry well out there.

There’s no consensus among those who live closest to the Welps or pass by regularly on whether they generally kept their driveway gate open or closed, or even if it was open during the day and closed at night.

Neviaser said he always saw the Welps’ house lit up at night, and that has continued after their deaths. More than one person familiar with the Welp house told the Statesman that the previous owner had installed an elaborate system of security cameras.

Was there a camera system in place – and, if so, was it on when the crime occurred?

“That would all be part of evidence collection and not something we would speak to,” spokeswoman Dearden said.

Neviaser doesn’t have an alarm system at his house, but said he’ll probably get one.

“Not that I think anything like this would happen again, but because we should have had one before,” he said.

None of the Welps’ nearest neighbors saw or heard anything out of the ordinary during the time authorities believe the family was slain.

Following up on a rumor that Dees may have been knocking on doors on Hill Road and Pierce Park Road prior to the murders, the Statesman queried more than 20 residents in the area. None saw anyone knocking on doors, nor had they seen Dees’ Subaru.

Nick and Marlene Troche have lived in a house on Esterbrook Place — about a mile down Pierce Park Road from the Welps — since 1978.

“We keep a pretty close eye on what goes on here, but we didn’t see or hear anything,” Marlene Troche said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413 John Sowell: 377-6423

  Comments