The King County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges related to the April 15 home burglary near Enumclaw that resulted in the shooting death of one suspect and the arrest of a second suspect.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Pascal Herzer filed three felony counts against Enumclaw resident Joseph Michael Zelepuza, 21, for residential burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm and theft of a firearm.
Zelepuza has prior convictions for vehicle theft, residential burglary, theft, attempted theft, assault, reckless driving, escape, false statement, minor in possession and DUI as a minor.
According to the prosecutor’s charging document, on April 15 Zelepuza and Michael C. Roberts, 50, entered a home in the 48100 block of 323rd Avenue Southeast near Enumclaw in unincorporated King County.
The home belonged to a 57-year-old man and his 61-year-old wife. They have lived on the property since 1991.
The document stated the husband and wife are “avid outdoorsmen” and own multiple firearms, knives and other outdoor gear, along with ammunition. Most of the firearms were in a gun safe, except for at least two shotguns and a black-powder rifle.
The wife has three daughters and none were living at the residence.
The couple had been away from home, attending to another piece of property that they own in Gold Creek area.
The document stated the couple told two neighbors they would be out of town, but “they did not ‘generally advertise’ to any of the daughters when they would be gone, or if they did, when they would be planning on returning.”
The couple had planned to stay away until April 17, but decided to return earlier due to the weather.
The couple arrived home at about 1 p.m. April 15. As they arrived, the document stated, they saw a gray Ford SUV in front of their driveway and recognized it as one of their daughter’s vehicles.
The daughter got out of the SUV and began shouting to the couple, “Someone is in the house.”
As the husband began walking toward the home, the daughter shouted to her mother she had “come to get eggs.”
The husband went to the rear of the home and found a sliding glass door had been pried open. He had armed himself with a shotgun. As he looked through the glass door he saw two silhouettes in the living room.
The husband reported he told the men to stop multiple times, but they did not.
He feared they were armed and, knowing his wife and her daughter were out front, he fired twice. He continued through the house and found Roberts lying on his stomach at the bottom of the stairs. He saw Zelepuza get into the SUV. He fired, hitting shattering the front window on the passenger side.
King County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and found Roberts dead from the gunshot wound.
Deputies interviewed a neighbor and she stated she saw the SUV at 12:45 p.m. parked in the driveway. According to the charging document the neighbor saw a woman, allegedly the daughter, open the driveway gate and saw a man in the driver’s seat, matching the description of Zelepuza.
The deputies became suspicious the daughter was involved and, during an interview, she identified the two suspects as “Pony” and “Joe,” referring to Roberts and Zelepuza, respectively. She admitted she knew the two intended to burglarize the home, but once they arrived she “changed her mind” and tried to stop them, unsuccessfully.
The deputies discovered Roberts and Zelepuza had spent the previous night at the daughter’s residence near Wilkeson and “upon waking on Friday morning had started making plans to commit burglaries that day.”
The Enumclaw Police officers found the SUV at 6 p.m. in Enumclaw at an abandoned apartment complex at 140 Leo Place.
Zelepuza had fled first to the home of a woman who had been dating his father. The woman called police when she saw a news report about the shooting and burglary. She reported Zelepuza had arrived uninvited at her home, let himself in and, “encountered (the woman’s) juvenile daughter, who noticed Zelepuza had a bloody face. Zelepuza stated he had been ‘in a fight at school.’” While at the home Zelepuza changed clothes, leaving a pair of bloody pants.
Zelepuza next went to his father’s apartment, where he was arrested at 9 p.m.
During the police interview he admitted to burglarizing the residence. He stated the daughter knew of their plan and did tell them to stop when they arrived at the scene.
Zelepuza said he and Roberts attempted to get into a barn, but could not. They broke into a camp trailer and stole a small television. The pair then broke into the home and began piling items to steal on the kitchen table, including two shotguns, a rifle and black-powder pistol. Zelepuza stated he had the rifles wrapped in a blanket and the pistol in a fanny pack when he noticed the couple arrived home.
Zelepuza said he told Roberts the couple were back and they met in the living room. At that point the husband was at the backdoor and Zelepuza said he heard him yell to stop at least twice. The pair ran to the front door with Roberts behind and to Zelepuza’s left. Zelepuza said he had unlocked the screen door and was opening the front door when he heard the first shot. Zelepuza said he fumbled with the door, got it open and was going through when he heard the second shot.
“He heard Roberts grunt and yelp in pain and he felt something hit him in the left shoulder,” the charging document stated.
Zelepuza said he ran to the SUV and was driving away when a third shot hit the front window and he was struck either by glass or pellets from the shot.
Zelepuza said after fleeing the residence he drove to Mud Mountain Dam Park and threw the pistol out of the driver’s window. Deputies found the pistol April 19 in a drainage ditch.
While awaiting charges on the burglary case and serving a 60-day Enumclaw Municipal Court commitment at the Enumclaw jail, Zelepuza and Danny Lee Phelps escaped from a work detail.
According to an Enumclaw Police Department report, Zelepula was arrested about two hours after escaping in a residential area with the assistance of a K9 unit from the Kent Police Department and Phelps was arrested four hours later at a downtown grocery store after being spotted riding a bike by the King County Sheriff Department Guardian One helicopter.