Arlington man confesses to M'ville homicide, receives $1 million bail

The 5100 block of 109 Place NE in unincorporated Marysville was cordoned off after a homicide was reported there on the morning of June 2. - Kirk Boxleitner
The 5100 block of 109 Place NE in unincorporated Marysville was cordoned off after a homicide was reported there on the morning of June 2.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Bail was set at $1 million on Paul Robert Williams June 3, after the 33-year-old Arlington man had confessed to killing his mother's next-door neighbor in unincorporated Marysville.

Shirley Freeman, 70, was found dead June 2 in her own home, in the 5100 block of 109 Place NE, with her throat slit.

When interviewed by major crimes detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, Williams told detectives that he'd been thinking about killing Freeman for days before the murder. Williams' mother said that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and takes lithium, while Williams himself said that he hears voices and takes anti-psychotic medication as needed to treat serious mental illness, according to court papers.

According to an affidavit filed June 3 in Everett District Court, after Williams' mother had an argument with Freeman June 1, apparently over Freeman's treatment of her own dog, Williams planned a ruse, to lead Freeman to believe that he intended to work things out between them, even though his actual intent was to kill her at some point.

Williams told investigators that, on the morning of June 2, he went to his mother's house, where he had coffee with his mother, before he grabbed a kitchen knife off the counter, put it in his back pocket and hid it under a long coat. At approximately 8 a.m., while Williams' mother was in another room, he went to Freeman's house. After entering Freeman's home, Williams attacked her, punching her in the face, knocking her down and stabbing her several times, before slitting her throat.

Rebecca Hover, public information officer with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, explained that Williams' mother was the one who called 911 at approximately 9:35 a.m., to alert Snohomish County Sheriff's Deputies to the situation. Williams told detectives that he'd begun pacing his own apartment after he'd woken up early that morning, and according to the affidavit, he came to his mother's neighborhood that day prepared, with several knives, a dumbbell and a change of clothes, the latter in case of blood.

When deputies arrived, they found Freeman dead in her home. Williams, who was sitting in his mother's driveway, was arrested without incident that morning, and interviewed by detectives. According to the affidavit, he told them he drove back to his Arlington apartment, cleaned himself up and changed his clothes, before he returned to his mother's house.

Williams was booked at the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of one count of first-degree murder, and a judge pro-tem ordered him held in lieu of $1 million in bail.

Deputies were called to respond to a verbal dispute at Freeman's home, June 1 between 5-6 p.m., between Freeman and Williams' parents regarding a barking dog. According to court papers, Williams went to see Freeman that night, to try and smooth over that dispute.

Autrey Steilling lives in the 5100 block of 110 Place NE, just behind Freeman's house, and he had been told by both Freeman and Williams' mother that Williams' mother disagreed with how Freeman treated her dog, although he did not know the exact nature of the complaint.

"The wife and I didn't hear anything this morning," said Steilling June 2, before he described Freeman as "a nice gal. Shirley stuck to herself, but we never had any trouble with her. We both went to Marysville Free Methodist Church, and she even offered to prune her tree branches, when they grew over onto my side."

Steilling was similarly complimentary toward Williams' mother, and he recalled Williams himself as a fellow church parishioner who had "a hug and a handshake" for everyone he met.

"It's just a big shock, because these were all wonderful people, as far as I could see," Steilling said. "It blew my mind, because I wondered, how could this even happen?"

By contrast, Williams reportedly told detectives that Freeman had problems with all of her neighbors, even though he also reportedly told them, after his arrest, that he felt horrible about what had happened.

Freeman lived alone, with her German shepherd and her two cats. The dog was removed from the premises by Snohomish County Animal Control June 2, and the cats were picked up by Animal Control officials June 3.

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office is not looking for any other suspects and does not have any other victims. Police said that Williams should be considered a danger to himself and others.

Detectives remained at the scene into the evening of June 2, waiting for the approval of a search warrant to go inside Freeman's house. Man-trackers with Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue were on scene and assisted detectives, by looking for and examining any possible footprints in Freeman's house that might have been related to the crime.

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