Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Blood Oath Murder

The Ex-Boyfriend

Eric Christensen
Eric Christensen
In cases such as this, in which a person has disappeared under suspicious circumstances and seems to have been a victim of foul play, the spouse, lover, or ex-boyfriend is always the first person police look at with interest. In this case, it turned out that it was the ex-boyfriend that the police had under their microscope, primarily because Sherry Harlan's neighbors reported hearing a noisy and possibly violent altercation between a man and a woman in Sherry's apartment on Saturday, January 2, 2010, four days before Sherry was reported missing. The disturbance consisted of considerable screaming and yelling. Witnesses told detectives they saw someone who matched the description of her ex-boyfriend at the apartment, a man police soon identified as 40-year-old Eric James Christensen of Gold Bar, Wash. A friend told investigators that Christensen had helped Sherry move into the apartment about a week earlier, just after Christmas.

As the inquiry into the missing woman intensified, another neighbor told detectives that Sherry's ex-boyfriend had previously beaten "her to a bloody pulp," and that Sherry had been afraid to break up with Christensen out of fear that he might kill her.

"This is what she was afraid of," a friend said. "She said she was afraid he would hurt her if she broke up with him."

One of the neighbors reported having seen Christensen on the day of the loud argument, lurking next to Sherry's car. Her dog, Roscoe, had been tied inside the car on the driver's side. The car's trunk was also open. When the neighbor had asked about Sherry's whereabouts, Christensen had reportedly replied that he did not know where she was but acknowledged that it was Sherry's dog inside her car.

Extending their investigation into Gold Bar, with assistance from the local police, the Snohomish County authorities wanted to speak with Christensen more than ever. As they closed in on him, a witness in Gold Bar reported that Christensen had been seen with Sherry's dog in his possession. Later, detectives reported that Christensen had said that Sherry "didn't need the dog anymore."

Checking phone records, detectives learned that the last call Sherry had received had been at 8 a.m. on Saturday, January 2, 2010, and that the call had come from Christensen's residence.

Police acknowledged that they were not any closer to finding Sherry Harlan or her dog, but were hopeful that the outlook would change after they had a chance to interview Christensen.

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