The suspect believed to have shot and killed a Washington state park ranger with ties to New Jersey was found dead in the vicinity after a day-long manhunt in the 368-square-mile Mount Rainier National Park, authorities said.
Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two who graduated from a New Jersey high school, was shot to death after a New Year's Day traffic stop in the park.
Authorities said Monday afternoon they discovered the body of suspected shooter Benjamin Colton Barnes in the snow in a drainage ditch in the park. Officials believe Barnes succumbed to the elements, but a medical examiner must determine the official cause of death.
Authorities believe Barnes, a 24-year-old war veteran with "survivalist skills," had camped out with weapons somewhere in the national park and closed down the area as they searched for him in the hours after the shooting.
A parks spokesman said Barnes was an Iraq war veteran, and the mother of his child had alleged he suffered from post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts following his deployments. In an affidavit related to an ongoing custody dispute, she also said Barnes kept an arsenal of weapons at home.
Anderson was born in Canada but grew up in Connecticut and Westfield, N.J. Her neighbors and childhood friends recall her as a self-assured woman who enjoyed life and always seemed to have a laugh in her voice.
She also took her commitment to law enforcement quite seriously.
"Her job was to make sure the parks were safe," Anderson's childhood friend Kim Fahey told NBC New York. "She never talked to me about being afraid, but she definitely talked about it being dangerous."
On Sunday, it turned deadly. Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said at about 10:20 a.m. Barnes sped past a checkpoint to make sure vehicles have tire chains, which are sometimes necessary in snowy conditions.
One ranger began following him while Anderson, who was married to another Mount Rainier park ranger, eventually blocked the road to stop the driver.
Before fleeing, the gunman fired shots at both Anderson and the ranger that trailed him, but only Anderson was hit, Bacher said. Anderson would've been armed, as she was one of the rangers tasked with law enforcement, Bacher said.
Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said she was shot before she had even exited the vehicle.
A SWAT team was able to remove Anderson's body from the mountain late Sunday night, with a procession of law enforcement vehicles escorting her remains away.
Park superintendent Randy King said Anderson had served as a park ranger for about four years. King said Anderson's husband also was working as a ranger elsewhere in the park at the time of the shooting.
Anderson graduated from Westfield High School in New Jersey in 1995 and studied fisheries and wildlife biology at Kansas State University before going into the parks service.
"It's just a huge tragedy — for the family, the park and the park service," King said of her death.
Anderson's death is also a massive loss for the friends with whom she grew up in New Jersey.
"She's a faithful person; she's a really generous person," Fahey said. "Whenever I was a talking with her she was always putting others before herself."
Barnes opened fire on Anderson after fleeing a New Year's Eve house party south of Seattle where he is believed to have shot four other people, police said.