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But that was just the earthquake. The tsunami was yet to come.
Tracks to Arkansas
In June, Butler hired an attorney, who hired a private investigator. The investigator quickly reported that Saenger was married, that she had gone by several other names, and finally, that she had a long criminal record in Arkansas, which included a conviction for murder.
Rose Winquist, the private investigator Butler's attorney brought into the case, recalls what she had to start with: "I got involved after Doug discovered that Shea Saenger had been e-mailing his dad and instructing him to delete the e-mails — some things that were pretty underhanded.'
Winquist began looking into Saenger's background. She advises: "Everybody who meets somebody on the Internet should do a quick background check before they get involved. If the Butlers had done that for their dad, they would have discovered that Shea Saenger was married to somebody else."
Winquist started at the sheriff's office in Washington's Kittitas County, where the Butlers lived, but found no help there. As she puts it, "If there's not blood and bullets, forget it."
"Then," she says, "we went to the feds." Many of those checks that Norman Butler had given Saenger had been sent via U.S. mail. An agent for the postal service interviewed the elder Butler. Winquist says, "He found that Mr. Butler was pretty incapacitated. He didn't have much of a memory. He thought he'd given this woman a couple hundred bucks."
Winquist began by looking up marriage applications for the uncommon name of Saenger. "I found that a man named Art Saenger, of Coupeville, Washington, had married a Shea Miller." Tracing Shea Miller, she found a name change; that Shea Miller had once been Sharon Miller.
Further tracing revealed that Sharon Miller had been married to a man named Morley Miller, who had since died. Morley Miller's marriage license showed that Sharon Miller's maiden name was Sharon Lumpkin.
Sharon Lumpkin was an unusual enough name that Winquist Googled it. That turned up a civil case from Arkansas. It seemed that Sharon Lumpkin had been held in an Arkansas prison, that she'd been disciplined for having sex with another inmate, and that she'd sued a prison official for violating her constitutional rights. A federal judge ruled against her, she appealed, and in 1989, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals had affirmed the lower court's ruling.
Winquist called the Arkansas Department of Correction. "They said, 'Yeah. We had her.' So I asked for her records," the investigator recalls. "They copied all their records and a photo and sent them to me. The date of birth — Aug. 16, 1950 — matched. So I called my client and said, 'Hey, this woman is a convicted murderer in Arkansas.' And, of course, they were floored, just sick."
But there was an up-side to the information. As Winquist put it, "Then the feds really took an interest."
The records Winquist received revealed a lot more than murder. They showed that by the age of 20, Sharon Ann Lumpkin was already getting into trouble in Phillips County, mostly for hot checks. According to court records, she wrote a lot of them over the next several years. And she faced charges for theft of property.
On one such charge, when she was 27, the warrant noted that she had paid for repairs on a refrigerator that was not hers and taken it home. According to the arrest warrant, when the rightful owner found out, located her, and offered to pay her for the repairs in order to get his refrigerator back, she told him: "She wasn't going to give me a DAMM thing and if my father had anything to say about it she would kill him."
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