Two arrested in connection to homicide investigation after body found near Cosmopolis

Two suspects with ties to Grays Harbor were arrested late last week in connection to the homicide of missing Mercer Island resident Curtis Engeland. 

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree identify theft, and first-degree theft charges against Philip Brewer, 32, and Christina Hardy, 47, according to multiple reports. 

Brewer, whose social media account indicates he went to Elma High School and Grays Harbor College, had posted information about the search for the missing man on March 3.

The Mercer Island Police Department shared that both suspects were located and taken into custody in southern California on suspicion of defrauding and then killing the 74-year-old Mercer Island resident.  

According to MIPD, the suspects are believed to have become acquainted with Engeland several months ago and subsequently financially defrauded him. 

Police believe the suspects later violently confronted Engeland at his Mercer Island home on February 23, and used Engeland’s vehicle to leave Mercer Island that night. 

The following day, February 24, Engeland’s family reported him missing. 

His body was later found near Cosmopolis

Mercer Island police initially responded to Mr. Engeland’s residence and began investigating his disappearance as a missing person case. With initial details unclear as to whether he left willingly or was taken, a Silver Alert was issued by the Washington State Patrol. 

Later evidence indicated the victim was already deceased, and that the suspects were no longer in the Mercer Island area. 

“Given the extremely sensitive nature of the investigation, these developments and other details were not made public while the investigation was continuing. “

Mercer Island Police detectives and King County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue teams conducted a targeted search for Engeland’s remains in Grays Harbor County following clues from the evidence. 

The search area was determined using GPS location history from the suspects’ cell phone activity. This search resulted in the recovery of  Engeland’s body, which was critical in connecting the final pieces of the investigation linking the suspects to the crime. 

During the seven days that followed, Mercer Island detectives compiled forensic information. Detectives believe the suspects left Washington State quickly after the victim was killed and fled south, rented different vehicles, and swapped out new cell phones to cover their path.  

Mercer Island detectives continued to work around the clock preparing to obtain arrest warrants for the suspects without alerting them to the tracking of their behavior and whereabouts. On March 14, the suspects were taken into police custody in California and will be extradited back to Washington to face homicide charges. 

“First and foremost, we must acknowledge Mr. Engeland’s family – when this incident was first reported to police as a missing person, we hoped for a better outcome,” Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes said. “The family remained determined to help our investigation over the past few weeks and we hope some comfort can be found through the hard work being done to bring justice for Curtis and his loved ones. We appreciate the community’s support as the police department was unable to share law enforcement-sensitive updates with the public until after our suspects were apprehended and know it was difficult to await answers in the wake of such terrible circumstances.” 

The full investigation remains ongoing and additional updates will be provided when appropriate.