A Kelso, Wash., man told police he strangled his stepfather during an argument about beer – and then left the body in their house for days while planning to bury it, according to court documents released Thursday.

The man was arrested in Seaview this week.

Bruce Wayne Albee, 56, appeared in court Thursday morning, where a judge found probable case to charge him with first-degree murder. Albee is accused of killing his stepfather, 81-year-old Charles Marion Rees, though police have not positively identified the body they found Wednesday night in the home the two men shared at 2201 Holcomb Loop Road.

The identify and time of death won’t be officially determined until an autopsy is completed Sunday.

Albee breathed heavily and his body convulsed as he stood shackled in a courtroom cell during his initial court appearance. Public Defender Josh Baldwin reached through the bars and placed a calming hand on Albee’s wrist. It did little good.

Three jail officers crammed into the cell to restrain Albee as Superior Court Judge Marilyn Haan read aloud the allegations against him. Albee, with a bushy mustache and long tangles of black hair falling over his cheeks, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, then suddenly bashed his head against the cell’s bars.

A young woman sobbed in the gallery and was comforted by a man and woman who flanked her. The more agitated Albee became, the louder she cried.

Albee said only three words during the hearing. He answered “yes” twice when Haan asked him if he understood the proceedings and his rights. Then he muttered “ow” as he doubled over and once again began to strain against his chains and the corrections officers who held him.

Haan ordered that Albee be held without bail. He continue to struggle at the hearing’s end as he was lead out of the cell.

Albee is expected to appear in court again Tuesday, when authorities are expected to again discuss bail.

Albee was arrested by Pacific County deputies Wednesday night after a call about a suspicious man pacing near a car in Seaview about 5 p.m. Albee told deputies the white Pontiac was stolen (it belongs to Rees) and then attempted to flee on foot. He was taken into custody and, after being given a Miranda warning, told deputies he had killed Rees, according to court records.

“I talked to my lawyer, I mean friend, and he said if I would have reported it right away I would have got manslaughter. But I waited and tired to dispose of the body, so now I will get murder,” Albee said, according to court documents.

Pacific County officials alerted Cowlitz County, and deputies here went to the Rees home in a rural area north of Kelso not far from the Lexington Bridge. Inside, they found a body that appeared to be Rees.

Rees and Albee were the only residents of the home, where Rees had lived several years, said Cowlitz Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig. Albee had lived there a few months.

There are a handful of other homes nearby, but as of Thursday morning no one had reported hearing any disturbance. Investigators were still working at the crime scene and interviewing neighbors, Rosenzweig said. So far, “nothing stands out,” he said.

Neighbors said Thursday morning they were shocked at the death, adding that both men had seemed friendly in passing.

Leona Massier remembers Albee helping her catch one of her dogs when it got loose, and said he’d wave as she got her mail. A woman who gave only Julie as her name said she never heard the two men fight.

“Bruce just seemed like a guy taking care of his dad,” she said from her home, which looks onto the back of Rees’ property, which includes numerous wind chimes and landscaping decorations. “I saw Bruce more than Charles. He kept to himself more. ... This is just crazy.”

Ralph Jenkins, working on an addition to his home down the street, remembers hearing Rees called “Uncle Chuck” and “Grandpa Chuck” by relatives and said he’d never seen or heard of any arguments between the two men. “They seemed just like guys next door,” he said.

Rosenzweig said it was still unclear what the nature of the beer argument between Albee and Rees was – whether it was over a single beer, concerns about drinking to excess or something else. He added there’s no reason for neighbors to be concerned as this appears to be an isolated incident.

Albee told Cowlitz County detectives that he and Rees fought and Rees was knocked down and struck his head on a table at one point. He then took a piece of rope and strangled Rees, pulling him back toward a bedroom, according to court documents. Afterward, he covered Rees in blankets and put him on a bed. Days later, because of the odor, Albee said he wrapped Rees in plastic and was going to bury the body, he told detectives. Albee also said he opened a window due to the smell.

During the interview, Albee also told detectives that he had confessed to his own son, Michael, to get the death off his chest.

Michael Albee, contacted by Cowlitz officials by telephone in Kennewick, Wash., said his father called him Monday and needed to talk. He drove to Kelso, and once there, he said his father told him he had choked Rees, though he added Rees was crying and was difficult to understand. In a later interview with a Kennewick police detective, Michael Albee said he believed his father had killed Rees.

Rosenzweig said there are no plans to arrest Michael Albee, who has cooperated with detectives.

According to Daily News archives, Albee was arrested several times in the 1990s for driving with a suspended license and at least once for marijuana possession. Albee’s mother, Dorothy L. Rees, married Rees in 1998. She died in 2012.

Albee’s Facebook account, created in June, has only a few posts and pictures, including one of him lying on driftwood at Cape Disappointment State Park in Pacific County. There also are three shots of the landscaping in the back yard of Rees’ house.

In an odd twist, a deputy was sent to the Rees residence Tuesday night, when Albee called 911 because someone had followed him home after a road-rage incident, Rosenzweig said. That driver is not believed to be connected to the death, but detectives would like to speak with the person about Albee, Rosenzweig said.

Detectives also are asking the public for the help in learning more about Albee’s and Rees’ activities in the past several days.

“If we can piece together their movements, we can maybe figure out a little better why this happened,” Rosenzweig said.

Anyone with information can call the Sheriff’s Office at 360-577-3092. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 360-577-1206.


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