Tragedy unfolded in the Puget Sound last week, as police discovered the bodies of a family of four across Kitsap and Mason counties. Police have conclusively determined the deaths were the result of homicidal violence; the details remain sealed pending investigation. No suspects have been named.
Police initially responded to reports of violence and gunshots in a Seabeck residential area. According to deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff's Department, it began with a vague, brief, and alarming 911 call alleging that "there had been violence and people were injured." Arriving at the scene, police were unable to enter the home as it had been set ablaze. Once the fire was put out, police discovered the bodies of Christale Careaga, 37, her son Jonathan Higgins, 16 and Hunter Schapp, 16. The three were members of a larger blended family, according to Christale Careaga's obituary in the Kitsap Sun. Higgins was her son from a prior marriage. She married John Careaga, a father of five, at age 26. The couple had seven children between them. John Careaga had previously been in a relationship with Hunter Schaap's mother.
After the bodies were discovered, police began searching for John Careaga and his Ford F150 truck. Both were discovered on NE Dewatto-Holly Road, south of Forest Springs Road in Mason County. The truck, like the house, had been burned and Careaga's remains were inside. Local authorities have recruited the help of the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. Investigators believe John Careaga may have been the main target in the incident.
The Careagas were the owners of Juanito's, a local taco shop in the Bremerton area. Christale, a former dental assistant originally from Austin, Texas, served as hostess at the taco shop - an outgrowth of her first small business venture, Christale's Java Hut. The taco shop is now littered with flowers and balloons from mourners. Local schools and business owners are said to be reeling over the loss of the relatively well-known family. Hunter Schaap was a football player at North Kitsap High School, where students paid tribute to their fellow student last week. Jonathan Higgins was an 11th grader at Klahowya High School, where the mood was said to be equally somber.
According to Det. Lt. Earl Smith, the scorched truck, and home have both been forensically processed. At the couple's home, police discovered $50,000 in a locked safe, $7,000 in a bank bag, miscellaneous shell casings, and 33 marijuana plants in the garage. A single latex glove was discovered beside Careaga's truck. John Careaga was seen at Camp Union Store in good spirits, just two and a half hours prior to the incident. The Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound have offered a $4,000 reward to anyone offering leads that will help solve the case.