Cold case investigators in Washington State used a genealogy database to identify a suspect wanted for a 2003 kidnapping and rape, and now believe the man could be connected to an unsolved kidnapping and murder that has vexed authorities for more than a decade.
Paul James Bieker, 50, was arrested Tuesday for the 2003 attack, Grays Harbor County Undersheriff Brad Johansson said, adding that detectives are now probing whether Bieker might also be responsible for the 2009 disappearance and killing of 10-year-old Lindsey Baum.
“We obviously have our eyebrows raised because of the similarities,” Johansson told The Daily Beast. “We’re a pretty rural area in a small town and the fact that you have two kidnappings in the same area within a six-year period is a cause for concern. We’re looking heavily into the Lindsey Baum case to see if he could be a person of interest in that case as well.”
In March 2003, a 17-year-old girl was abducted as she pulled into her garage in McCleary, Washington, a small logging town of 1,600. An arrest warrant obtained by The Daily Beast says that, as she started to enter her home, an “adult male” grabbed the teen, who is identified in the warrant as “A.E.,” and forced her back into the garage.
He shoved her to the floor, kicking and punching her, then bound her head, hands, and feet with duct tape and wire ties, the warrant says. The man then put A.E. in the trunk of his car. When the trunk lid wouldn’t close, he shoved her into the backseat and drove to an undisclosed location.
As they drove off, A.E. tried to get the man to take the tape off her mouth by telling him she couldn’t breathe, according to the warrant. He then “stopped the car, poked her in the eyes, and slapped her until she acted like she was breathing again. The suspect told A.E. that if she didn’t start breathing that he would just continue slapping her,” it states.
They continued down a gravel road, where the suspect stopped the car, dragged A.E. onto the ground, and sexually assaulted her, the warrant says. When it was over, the driver allegedly drove to a fire station somewhere in the area, and told the teen that if she called the police or told anyone what had happened, he would kill her father and burn down their house. Before he left, the man freed A.E.’s wrists but left her feet tied. Still, she was able to drive herself back home to McCleary, where her dad cut A.E.’s feet loose and called 911, the warrant says.
Investigators collected evidence and collected a sample of the attacker’s DNA. Cops entered the DNA profile into a national criminal database but failed to identify a match. In 2010, the Grays Harbor Prosecuting Attorney’s Office used the profile to obtain what Johansson called a “John Doe warrant” for the unknown suspect.
“We did that so the statute of limitations wouldn’t expire,” Johansson explained.
In December 2020, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Darrin Wallace submitted the alleged attacker’s DNA to a genealogy lab. New tests led to a shortlist of people who might be related to the suspect, and investigators subsequently zeroed in on Paul Bieker—who in 2003 had lived in McCleary, a short distance from the victim’s home.
Wallace and Det. Sgt. Paul Logan tailed Bieker and were able to obtain his DNA from a “discarded item,” which authorities say was linked by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab to the suspect in the 2003 sexual assault.
Bieker was arrested on June 15 and booked into the Grays Harbor County Jail on Tuesday, according to the county jail roster.
Now, police are delving into the Lindsey Baum murder to see if Bieker could be their man.
On June 26, 2009, Baum, who was about to turn 11, disappeared in McCleary while walking home from a friend’s house. The case touched off a nationwide search for the girl, whose body would go undiscovered for another eight years.
In September 2017, a group of hunters in remote Ellensburg, Washington found human remains in an unpopulated area and called police. The FBI was brought in to assist, and the bureau’s crime lab identified the remains as Baum’s.
Police followed a number of leads, and at one point had three elderly Seattle brothers in their sights as suspects, but none ultimately panned out. With Bieker’s arrest, they have a new trail to follow, said Johansson.
“Investigators are going to be poring through the Lindsey Baum case—it’s huge, it's just a gigantic case, there’s a ton of information they have to sort through, compare notes, follow up on where [Bieker] could have been and if he was involved,” Johansson said.
“We’re also hoping this might spark some interest from the community in sharing some information with us about what they might know. Somebody knows something about the Lindsey Baum case. So we’re just looking for that one person it may ring a bell to, whether that’s in relation to Mr. Bieker or somebody else.”
A glum-looking Bieker appeared in court Wednesday afternoon wearing an orange jail uniform. In asking for a bond reduction from $100,000 to $10,000, defense attorney Jared Ausserer told Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards that Bieker has no criminal history, is a homeowner, and works full-time.
In response, prosecutor Jason Walker asked for an increase in Bieker’s bond, saying he poses a “substantial risk of flight.” He noted that Bieker had moved to another county and “appears to have severed ties to the community.”
Walker also revealed that the 2003 crime allegedly committed by Bieker was “the case of a stranger, there was no relationship,” between him and the victim—something he said has been confirmed by investigators since Bieker’s arrest on Tuesday.
After reviewing the case file, Edwards raised Bieker’s bond to $250,000 and forbade him from having any contact with the “A.E.”
“I don’t think the passing of time and the lack of detection... during that period of time necessarily is an indication that Mr. Bieker doesn’t pose a risk to community safety,” Edwards said.
Bieker is due back in court on July 26.