Last Wednesday, a man was given a life term in prison for carrying out a crazy scheme to kill his grandparents, demolish their home, and establish a commune on their waterfront property in Washington.
On two counts of aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and first-degree arson, Ezra Fleming Ralston, now 29 years old, was found guilty. Rebecka Neubauer, his girlfriend, 25, was found guilty of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and received a sentence of 33 years and 4 months in prison.
According to a declaration of probable cause from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, a phone search of Ralston revealed he had “active ongoing discussions” with Neubauer in which they “discuss the murder in advance” before Joanna Gormley and Ted Ralston were discovered stabbed to death in their burning home in 2020.
According to a press release, on the same day Sean Higgins, 26, and Spencer Kleine, both 26, were found guilty of the murders and given life sentences and 45 years in jail, respectively. While Kleine pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, Higgins was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
According to the probable cause report, Gormley, 73, and the oldest Ralston, 71, were discovered dead in their burning Vaughn house at about 8:30 that evening.
The couple was covered in knife wounds and “positioned as if [they] had been dragged down the stairs” notwithstanding the explosion that had prompted officials to the scene.
Firefighters decided that the house fire was deliberately started after discovering roughly five petrol cans inside the residence as well as proof of a propane explosion. According to the paper, the couple’s mattress was bloodied.
Ralston’s mother phoned the police to let them know her son was “not mentally well” and to “ping” his phone while the cops were doing their investigation.
Around 6 o’clock that day, Ralston’s father informed the police that he had last spoken to his son. When he was 25 years old, he informed his father that his grandparents were ill and couldn’t talk on the phone because they had fevers and sore throats.
The father told his son to dial 911, but the authorities never discovered any record of a 911 call being made. Just before leaving for the hospital, he texted his father to let him know.
A neighbour of the grandparents called the father a little over two hours later to let him know that their house was on fire. The father of Ralston made one more unsuccessful attempt to get in touch with his son.
“The doctors told me they’re in the safe zone but they’re keeping them overnight,” Ralston wrote in a text to his dad. “They didn’t tell me the results of the test for COVID-19, am not sure if they ever had results yet.”
According to investigators, no local hospital had any records showing that the couple had been admitted.
A neighbour informed authorities that the grandparents’ Nissan Sentra was missing, despite the fact that Ralston’s automobile was at his grandparents’ home when the fire broke out. At his girlfriend’s flat, it was later discovered.
Ralston was apparently in the flat when Neubauer’s mother arrived home about 9:30 p.m., according to a report from detectives. When investigators informed her of the victims’ deaths, she gave a startled expression and said, “She had heard her daughter make a ‘joke’ about Ralston killing his grandparents so she and Ralston could move into their home.”
Ralston admitted to killing his grandparents when he arrived, “mention[ing] that his grandmother’s neck had been broken and his grandfather had been stabbed,” according to another resident of the flat who overheard Ralston and Neubauer “say that Ralston was going to kill his grandparents.”
When Neubauer was questioned about the “joke,” she “said that they “often… jok[ed] that if his grandparents passed away [due to their age] they would be able to live in a house,” insisted that she and Ralston were “just joking” and “called herself morbid.”
Police reported that she denied making intentions to murder the couple. Neubauer acknowledged texting Ralston about killing his grandparents in a later interview, but she stated that she “thought it was a joke and never thought he would go through with it.”
According to the paper, she reportedly informed investigators that “there would be several ‘joking’ messages from her” instructing Ralston to “clean out his fingerprints” and “how to make meat feast'” by dismembering their corpses, putting the pieces in a blender, and feeding the result to cattle.”
Detectives then acquired a warrant so they could search Ralston’s phone.
Just before the murders took place, when Ralston “expressed concerns about the fact that his grandparents were still awake,” Neubauer “gave him specific advice on how to proceed to avoid alerting the grandparents,” per the document.
She repeatedly “encouraged” Ralston whenever he “expressed his frustration and stress about committing the murders,” police said, at one point telling him “you’re so amazing, you got this.”
According to investigators, they discovered substantial earlier discussions between the younger couple about establishing a commune on the land.
The Seattle Times stated that Ralston texted Kleine and Higgins with his grandparents’ address and instructions on how to enter the house secretly.
In charge papers seen by the outlet, prosecutors stated that phone records show Higgins and Kleine drove to the victim’s house the night of the murders and “stayed[ed] for hours… before leaving together after the murders.” As early as March 2020, mentions of the group as a “team” and the murder of Ralston’s grandparents were made.
According to the publication, Neubauer reportedly informed authorities that Higgins stabbed Ted Ralston and broke Gormley’s neck while his grandson was holding him down.
It was impossible to contact Neubauer’s and Ezra Ralston’s legal counsel for comment.
According to the Times, Ted Ralston, a retired computer security specialist, had previously worked for both the Clinton-Gore White House transition team and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Gormley worked as a volunteer at the Key Peninsula Health Clinic while pursuing his respiratory therapy training.
“Ted was often the smartest man in the room,” the couples’ friend Don Swensen told the outlet. “He was a political animal, and we connected a lot on that. We sat in here and had hourlong discussions about politics.”
Meanwhile, Swensen said, “Joanna was one of the most gentle people I’ve met in my entire life,” adding that she was “quiet, reserved, elegant, intelligent [and] just a gentle soul.”