TACOMA, Wash. — Lance Rougeau made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors say he killed a King County grandmother, Linda Sweezer, and then tried burning her body to destroy the evidence.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner told Q13 News Sweezer died from strangulation.
Police say they believe Rougeau may have had an accomplice that’s still on the loose.
What’s worse, police believe the victim’s 4-month-old grandchild was with her when she was killed.
Investigators told Q13 News they are still trying to get to the why in this case, but that so far they haven’t found a connection between the suspect and victim.
But no matter the motive, an infant is now without her grandmother and police say they’re looking for another person who may also be responsible for her murder.
“When I closed my eyes last night, that’s all I’ve been saying,” said Sweezer’s friend Gwen Allen-Carston. “She must have been absolutely terrified.”
Allen-Carston is still reeling after police say her friend was slain in her Kent home Tuesday.
She said Linda was a loving and compassionate woman who had a deep connection to her friends, family and neighbors. She also worked with the Kent Black Action Commission, coordinating their Juneteenth celebrations.
“It’s going to be hard because we’re going to be expecting Linda to be coming through the door,” she said.
The man who police say killed her, Rougeau, has a lengthy criminal history. On Thursday, a Pierce County judge placed him on a 72-hour hold in Pierce County Jail while charges are being prepared. Rougeau could be charged with second-degree murder on Monday.
“We are still out doing search warrants, we are still out working the case and doing interviews,” said Detective Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
The crime spans both King and Pierce counties. Investigators believe Sweezer was killed in her Kent home. Then detectives say Rougeau dumped her body and tried to set it on fire near Lake Tapps.
Police later found Sweezer’s 4-month-old granddaughter alone in her crib at her Kent home.
“For such a horrible situation that was a very good blessing,” said Troyer.
Police say so far there’s no solid link between Sweezer and Rougeau but they do believe their suspect had help, possibly driving a get-away car.
“We are looking for somebody that was driving another car because there were two cars at that scene,” said Troyer.
Sweezer’s friends are planning a candlelight vigil for her this weekend.
Rougeau is expected to be arraigned October 31.