NORTH BEND, Wash., April 28, 2012 -- A tense Washington standoff at an alleged murderer's hillside bunker has ended after a body, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, was found inside the hideout, police said.
Deputies said they were nearly certain the body is that of Peter Keller, 41, who was wanted on first degree murder and arson charges.
After a 22-hour standoff, SWAT team members used an explosive to blast through the roof of the heavily fortified hideout this afternoon, opening a space large enough for deputies to enter the bunker.
Once inside deputies discovered a body, which they said appeared to be Keller, and it appeared as though he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office said.
Authorities are proceeding with caution due to the possibility the survivialist may have booby trapped his hideout, King County Sheriff Steven Strachand told ABC News.
Authorities had not seen Keller since they responded to a fire at his North Bend residence on Sunday. Inside, responders found the bodies of Keller's wife, Lynnettee Keller, 41, and daughter Kaylene, 19.
Sheriff's deputies were able to pinpoint the location of Keller's hiding place after they found photos of the bunker that he had intended to burn in his home. An enhanced picture revealed the North Bend Premium Outlets in the background, which led police to the Rattlesnake Ridge area.
Detectives found Keller's pickup truck at a trailhead and used trackers to follow footprints in the woods.
Keller is believed to have spent eight years planning and building his bunker, which was built 20 feet into a hillside. The two-level bunker included cement supports and multiple hatches for coming and going.
Keller stockpiled food and supplies in the bunker, police said. He had recently told a co-worker at a computer refurbishing store that he withdrew $6,200 from the bank and might not return to work.
Three dozen SWAT officers reached the bunker Friday after hiking through rugged terrain and undergrowth near the Rattlesnake Ridge trail in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of Washington. Police helicopters made around 40 trips to drop SWAT team members in by rope.
Overnight, lights were seen flickering on and off from inside the bunker.
SWAT officers told West that photos of the bunker "don't do it justice."
"They said the fort appears to be amazingly fortified," she told The Associated Press during the standoff.
Authorities pumped tear gas into the bunker on Friday and heard movement inside but did not enter the structure.
Earlier today, a team of hostage negotiators were transported by helicopter to the site. The team from the King County Sheriff's Office had tried to establish contact with Keller through a bullhorn, West said.
Authorities had said they did not plan to make any big moves to storm the bunker, since they considered Keller to be armed and the heavily fortified hideout to be booby-trapped.
"It's a very extreme and tactical situation. Time is on our side. We're not going to do anything rash," Strachan said Friday.
The trail has been closed to the public until further notice, as police are still worried about possible booby traps and explosives in and around the bunker.
Paul Cooke, Keller's boss, said Keller was an "excellent employee."
"We're utterly blown away that this happened…excellent employee. I mean you can set your clock by him," Cooke said.