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Duo Befriended Elderly Man On Dating App Before Allegedly Drugging & Killing Him For His Money

Duo Befriended Elderly Man On Dating App Before Allegedly Drugging, Stabbing & Killing Him To Get Money

Two suspects are in custody for allegedly kidnapping and murdering a retired University of Washington professor. That would be awful enough. But the way they met him and gained his trust? It’s diabolical…

Over the weekend, the Mercer Island Police Department in the state of Washington announced that 47-year-old Christina Hardy and 32-year-old Philip Brewer (pictured in mugshots above) had been taken into custody. The pair was arrested late last week in the small town of Blythe, California, down on the border with Arizona, very near the border with Mexico. They are now awaiting extradition back up to Washington to face charges in a case that has been percolating for two months.

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This sad story started back on January 13 when 74-year-old retired professor Curtis Engeland logged onto the gay dating app Scruff. There, he came across Brewer and Hardy. The trio met at a coffee shop in the city of Renton that day, then spent the evening together at Engeland’s home. Later that night, Engeland called police to report that his cell phone, wallet, and keys had been stolen. Investigators later tracked Brewer from ATM to ATM upon seeing he’d apparently been using Engeland’s bank card to make financial transfers.

Then, more than a month later, the story progressed. On the morning of February 24, Engeland was reported missing by family members. His family and friends told cops they had suddenly started receiving suspicious texts from the retired professor’s cell phone claiming he would be away for a while on a “personal matter.” Per KIRO News, the texts were uncharacteristically filled with bad grammar and misspellings — mistakes the professor wouldn’t have made. Plus, when loved ones tried to call Engeland back directly, they couldn’t contact him. The Mercer Island PD and the Washington State Patrol then issued a Silver Alert for the missing retiree (pictured above, lower center).

Hours later on that same afternoon, cops received a 911 call from Engeland’s neighborhood. Two of his sisters were at his house, and they had found Brewer, Hardy, and Hardy’s son all in the driveway. When cops showed up, the three told officers Engeland had agreed to let them rent out the basement of his home. The man’s sisters told police they did not want the trio there, and the suspects quickly left. With the missing persons report filed only hours earlier — and no indication yet that Engeland had been met with foul play — cops didn’t have cause to arrest them. Cell phone data later pulled by detectives indicated Brewer and Hardy immediately drove south from there to Oregon. When they got to the city of Salem, they sold both of their own cell phones as well as that of the professor.

On March 7 — weeks after Engeland was last definitively heard from — the retired septuagenarian’s corpse was found outside the tiny town of Cosmopolis in Grays Harbor County, Washington. That’s more than 100 miles away from where he was last seen. Medical examiners found Engeland had died after being stabbed in the neck. But by then Brewer and Hardy were in the wind.

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Then, last Thursday, there was an unexpected break in the case: a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a man for speeding outside the tiny desert town of Blythe. The man said he’d been speeding because he was on the run from Brewer and Hardy. When the CHP officer asked why, the man claimed the two had told him they’d previously injected Engeland with fentanyl, put his body in the trunk of their car, drove to Cosmopolis, and then stabbed him to death and dumped his body. The CHP went into action based on the driver’s claim, and Brewer and Hardy were quickly found and arrested in Blythe. Now they’ve been charged with kidnapping and murder while awaiting extradition.

Per KIRO News, court filings by prosecutors claim the pair was motivated by access to Engeland’s money and home:

“[Brewer and Hardy] appear to have concocted a scheme to kill the victim and then move into his home, all while taking over his financial accounts and making extravagant purchases just hours after killing him.”

The court docs also state Brewer and Hardy appear to have used Engeland’s phone to text fake conversations back and forth between the deceased victim and their own phones in order to throw police off the trail.

Laurie Goeken was a friend and neighbor of Engeland’s for more than ten years. She told KIRO News:

“He was a friend of ours, a neighbor, and just a wonderful person all around. Just a very, very special person. An avid gardener and a hiker. The fact that he was missing was highly, highly unusual. He had cats that he loved. And we would look after his cats when he was gone. He would look after ours. He would never leave them unattended.”

Goeken went on to add:

“It was a terrible, terrible blow [to learn of his murder], and reality set in. Just the fact that this can happen. It happens here and it happens everywhere.”

So awful. We send our condolences to Engeland’s friends, family, and loved ones.


[Image via Blythe Police Department/Mercer Island Police Department]

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Mar 19, 2024 16:38pm PDT