Montana man charged in 1996 murder of a Kirkland woman

A Montana man was charged Monday for the murder of a Kirkland woman that occurred in 1996.

Clifford Everell Reed faces second-degree murder charges after allegedly killing Sandi Rae Johnson, a former Kirkland resident, on April 26, 1996. King County detectives from the Cold Case Unit recently arrested the 59-year-old at his home in Victor, Mont. He is being held on $5 million bail and will be extradited to King County Jail.

Reed was a co-worker of Johnson’s during her disappearance, and according to charging documents, he left Washington shortly after she was reported missing. Detectives conducted multiple interviews throughout the investigation and friends of Reed revealed his alleged infatuation with Johnson.

“Reed told friends that Sandi was ‘a very special person,’ that they had an active sexual relationship and that they would eventually marry,” according to charging documents. “In reality, Sandi did not return his affections, denied any romantic relationship and told friends Reed needed to leave her alone.”

Reed had allegedly loaned Johnson $1,800 for a house payment and often spoke of wanting to find a steady job so that he could support Johnson and her children if they ever ended up in a serious relationship. However, the suspect denies having any romantic relationship with Johnson.

Reed’s friends said he allegedly had a history of referring to women as “sluts and gold diggers.” According to court documents, a close friend of Reed’s told police that he was likely responsible for Johnson’s disappearance and noted Reed was very bitter toward his ex-wives. His friend allegedly told police he said he divorced his second ex-wife “so he wouldn’t have to give her any money” and if she ever tried to get money from him, “he would kill her and she would disappear," the documents continue.

Johnson, who was 28 at the time, was reported missing on April 27, 1996 by her separated husband Ken Johnson after she missed important family events.

Washington State Department of Transportation workers later discovered her body on Aug. 25, 2004 on eastbound Highway 410 in Pierce County. Her skeletal remains were identified via dental records and an autopsy by Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. John Howard revealed her death was by homicide.

On April 25, 1996, Johnson worked a double shift at Bowen Scarff Ford in Kent as an administrative coordinator. She chose to work the extra hours so she could take the next day off to prepare for her son’s 5th birthday, which included two parties. As a result, Johnson arranged for her children to stay overnight with her babysitter.

Friday morning, she left a message with her babysitter to pick up her then-2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son later in the day so she could do some shopping. She also made plans with her friend to have lunch at Cucina Cucina in Bellevue. But she never showed up.

“(Her friend) drove to Sandi’s house in Kirkland and noted that her car wasn’t there and she didn’t answer the door. He continued to try to contact Sandi throughout the day but he never heard from her again,” the documents continue.

After Johnson failed to pick up her children that night, and later missed her son’s first birthday party, her husband reported her missing.

That weekend, employees of the Thriftway Market in Burien noticed Johnson's green Ford Escort station wagon in the driveway and reported it. The doors were unlocked, the key was in the ignition, her cell phone and papers were in plain view and the seat was all the way back, which “was unusual, considering Johnson was petite," the documents continue.

Reed lived 1.25 miles away from the store at the time of her disappearance.

The next day, Johnson’s wallet was located on Rainier Avenue South at the Eagle Hardware store with a missing license, but was identified with other cards.

During the police investigation, Reed told detectives that he had ordered custom-made stools for Johnson’s children, which would also act as a birthday gift for her son. Johnson told police Sandi told him she was going to Reed’s that Friday morning to pick them up.

Reed’s apartment neighbors contacted police three days after the woman went missing and said they saw a vehicle that matched her car’s description, parked outside of Reed’s apartment on April 26, 1996 and also heard a woman’s voice, but saw Reed drive the vehicle in the direction of the Thriftway shop alone. Reed claimed the car was “some guy’s” who met him for auto-work and said the car was a Subaru.

On May 1, court documents say Reed’s neighbor received a call from Reed who asked him to tell police that he and Sandi were just friends and that he was kidding about their sexual relationship.

Reed’s roommate told the neighbors that he was at work that Friday but while he was gone Reed had vacuumed, cleaned out the vacuum cleaner and rented a carpet cleaner to clean the carpets.

“…This was unusual since Reed had never cleaned the apartment in the years prior to that,” the charging documents state.

When detectives questioned Reed 16 years ago, he said he believed Johnson could have committed suicide.

“This case shows the true value of a cold case detective squad,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg in a news release. “The families of victims of unsolved murders need to know that we will never give up seeking justice for them.”


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