No one held for West Valley triple murders: Case against Culton dismissed

No one held for West Valley triple murders: Case against Culton dismissed »Play Video
Kevin Harper and Tracy Culton appear in court in connection with three West Valley murders. Action News photo

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The case against Tracy Culton has been dismissed, the Yakima County Prosecutor's Office announced Friday. She was being held in connection with the aggravated murders of three people in West Valley.  This means no one is charged with the murders of the Goggin family.

Bill, Pauline and Bettye Goggin were found brutally murdered in their West Valley home in February of 2011.

Prosecutors wrote in a news release, "...Ms. Culton was not involved in the planning or participation in the triple homicide."

Sheriff's department detectives interviewed "dozens of witnesses" that supported her alibi, according to the release.

Culton also took a polygraph test which concluded she was "truthful regarding her non-involvement in the planning and/or participation in the Goggin murders.

Prosecutors said they received results from the Washington state crime lab this week. None of the results implicated Culton.

Prosecutors wrote in a statement, "Based on the totality of evidence, the state dismissed the case for insufficient evidence and in the interests of justice."

Neighbors of the Goggins' still can't believe it.

"Just a sense of disappointment," said Raymond Vanderwall. "We use the expression he got away with murder. So far somebody is getting away with murder."

"I look all around my house and I have memories," said Ellen Vanderwall. I have things Bettye, Bill's mother, had give me -- made for me. Just little trinkets of this and that. Things that Pauline and I shopped for together. Plants that we shared. They're still part of us."

Back in October, prosecutors struck a deal with Kevin Harper who was facing murder charges. Harper pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm and possession of stolen property, for having the Goggins' stolen credit cards.

Yakima County deputy prosecutor Ken Ramm said new information came from a witness in that case that changed the time prosecutors originally thought the murders happened by several hours.

The sheriff's department plans continue investigating the case.  At this time, no one is charged in the murders of the Goggin family.

What happened to the other players in the case?

»Tennance Buckingham still faces charges of trafficking stolen property and rendering criminal assistance. He is not in jail and was never charged with the murders.

»Crystal West, Kevin Harper's wife, was charged with rendering criminal assistance and attempted rendering criminal assistance. Those charges were dropped as part of her husband's plea deal.

»Grady Mitchell was arrested on unrelated charges last year, but has no charges pending in the Goggin case. He's not in custody.

From then to now: Timeline of events

This is the second shocker for the case. A quick look at the twists and turns which all began almost exactly two years ago.

  • February 18th of 2011: The bodies of the three victims were found inside the gated community of Falcon Ridge.
  • March 2nd: Kevin Harper was arrested for the crime.
  • Six weeks later: Investigators said Tennance Buckingham was caught with items stolen from the Goggin home. He was arrested.
  • The next month: Harper's wife Crystal West was accused of destroying evidence.
  • June of 2011: Tracy Culton first came into the picture. Investigators initially arrested her for burglary. She was charged with the murders by August.
  • August 2012: Kevin Harper's trial started and stopped on the same day when his attorney said they'd no longer waive the right to a speedy trial.
  • October 2012: The move that no one saw coming. Harper makes a plea deal with prosecutors who dropped all murder charges against him. He has not been sentenced, but is likely to get seven-years for the lesser crimes he agreed to.
  • February 8th, 2013: murder charges dropped against Tracy Culton. Leaving no one on the hook for this triple murder.

Harper remains in custody

The only person still in custody is Kevin Harper as he awaits sentencing. Many wondered if this case would fall apart completely when Harper struck a plea deal.

The only person left to pin the murders on was Culton. KIMA questioned Stewart Graham with the Yakima County Sheriff's Office back in October.

"Do you feel there is enough evidence to convict Tracy Culton?" KIMA asked.

"Oh, I can't answer that," Graham said.

Action News asked what would happen if Tracy Culton wasn't found guilty of the murders?

"Then, for us, the case would be cleared."

"Cleared, meaning no longer being looked into?" KIMA asked.

"Yes," he said.

"So, essentially closed?" KIMA asked.

"Yes," Graham said.

The latest statement from prosecutors indicates Yakima County deputies are continuing their investigation into the triple murder.

Action News has been tracking the Goggins' murder case since the day it happened. Stay with KIMATV.com, Facebook & Twitter for the latest on the West Valley triple murder investigation.