Santoso lurid murder case costs cops $200,000; Mason convicted but body never found

Kirkland police racked up tens of thousands of overtime hours in a two-year investigation leading to last month's first-degree murder conviction of Kim Mason for the grisly Kirkland slaying of his one-time lover, Haranto Santoso.

"Through the course of the investigation, practically everyone had a hand in it," said police spokesman Lt. Rex Caldwell. The overtime alone cost the department around $200,000, he said. The workload included sending out literally hundreds of letters and checking credit records in an effort to locate Santoso, an Indonesian immigrant whose body has yet to be found.

Lacking a body meant Mason was convicted on circumstantial evidence, but court documents show the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming, thanks in part to expensive forensic evidence Caldwell said was paid for by the Kirkland Police Department.

Duct-tape terror

There was already a history of violence between the two men before Santoso disappeared in 2001. According to court documents, Mason invited Santoso to his Redmond condo on January 23, 2001, after the two met to look at a car Mason bought using a $400 loan from Santoso.

Once at Mason's apartment, Mason began to strangle Santoso, who lost consciousness and woke up to find his face, mouth, feet and hands duct-taped, according to Santoso's statement to police the next day. Santoso also told police Mason had threatened him with a loaded gun, had forced him to write a letter to a roommate saying he was moving to Portland or Canada, and had forced him to write Mason a check for $700.

Mason, Santoso told police, also tried to load a syringe with drain cleaner, but he started crying when he was unsuccessful and released Santoso, whose eyes turned blood red as a result of the strangulation attempt.

Mason was arrested the next day, and admitted choking Santoso into unconsciousness, duct-taping him and pointing a gun at him, although Mason claimed the gun was unloaded. He also claimed he assaulted Santoso because the man had tried to kiss and fondle him. However, Mason also denied telling Santoso to write him a check, and he denied displaying a syringe or even having any in his condo.

When they served a search warrant on January 25, though, Redmond detectives found not only a loaded 9-mm handgun, a partially made-out check for $700 and duct tape in Mason's condo, they also found several syringes, needles and a bottle of drain cleaner with perforations in the aluminum seal.

Mason was charged on Jan 29 with kidnapping and attempted robbery, both in the first degree, and prosecutors requested bail be set at $200,000. He is the adopted son of retired assistant Seattle police chief John Mason. Over the objections of prosecutors, Mason was released on his own recognizance after his arraignment. It proved to be a fatal mistake for Santoso, who told police that he and Mason had been involved in a sexual relationship about two years earlier.

Blood-splattered walls

On the night of Feb. 19, three weeks after Mason was released, neighbors heard a loud argument and the sounds of a struggle coming from Santoso's Kirkland apartment. A witness also saw Santoso's car driving away a short time later, and a neighbor discovered a trail of blood the next morning that led from Santoso's apartment to the parking lot.

Kirkland police investigated and found "a significant amount of blood in Santoso's bedroom, and between the bedroom and front door," according to court documents. Blood was also found on several walls in the bedroom, indicating that the victim had been "struck with a sharp-edged object multiple times." Santoso's car was discovered in the SeaTac International Airport garage on February 21, and a significant amount of blood was found on both front seats, as well as on the console.

A bogus alibi

Kirkland police immediately thought of Mason.

"He was our initial suspect because of the underlying assault case in Redmond," said Lt. Caldwell, who added that Mason was not the sole suspect. "But everything kept pointing back to Mason." Mason denied any involvement and said he'd spent the night Santoso disappeared at the Bellevue apartment of his girlfriend, Marina Madrid. She confirmed his alibi - at least initially.

Caldwell had a theory about that.

"There were a number of people he had control of emotionally. People were afraid of him," Caldwell said. "So his friends and his girlfriend were thinking that, if he did it once (kill someone), he might do it again."

Indeed, Mason - a professional kick boxer - was a scary guy. According to court documents, he told Madrid, for example, that he had gone back to where he'd left Santoso's body and cut off the head. Kirkland detectives re-interviewed Madrid in April. After she was granted immunity, she agreed to tell them what really happened the night Santoso disappeared.

According to Madrid's statements to police, Mason called her from the airport that night and told her to come pick him up and to bring a change of clothes. She found that Mason's clothes and hands were bloody, and he responded to Madrid's surprise by saying that Santoso was no longer a problem, according to court documents, which add that Mason explained that he had also cut his thigh during the attack on Santoso.

Madrid told police she later helped Mason bandage the wound at her apartment. She said that Mason had thrown a knife out of the car window, changed clothes and disposed of the bloody ones on the way back to Bellevue.

Mason's bandaged leg also came to the attention of his trainer, Curtis Schuster, during a kick-boxing tournament in Chehalis on February 27. Schuster told police that Mason explained at first that he had injured himself training for the match, but Mason came up with a doozy of an explanation after he and Schuster had smoked some pot in Madrid's apartment following their return from the match.

According to court documents, Mason showed Schuster the knife wound on his thigh and said that the Russian Mafia had killed Santoso and stabbed him in the leg to ensure his silence.

Motive & blood work

According to Mason's girlfriend, he told her he planned to kill Santoso before going to his apartment because he was worried that Santoso was going to testify against him in connection with the January 23 kidnapping and assault. That appeared to take care of motive, an important element in a murder case.

"At the core of this is a desperate person who wanted to silence a person who wanted to do him harm," Caldwell explained.

But what really cinched the case against Mason was the blood evidence. Police recovered the knife Mason tossed out the window after Madrid picked him up, and DNA testing indicated that blood on it was Santoso's, confirming the knife was the murder weapon, according to court documents.

The documents also state that DNA evidence indicated that blood in Santoso's apartment came from Santoso, that both Santoso's and Mason's blood was found in Santoso's car, and that blood from both men was found in Madrid's car.

All in a day's work

"I don't think this was all that bizarre," Caldwell said of the case, although he said it did have "some interesting twists."

Caldwell conceded that murder convictions without a body are rare, but they aren't unheard of in Washington. Mason's case was the first one in Kirkland, but there have been 17 other state murder convictions without a body, he said.

Caldwell predicts the conviction will be appealed, but Kirkland police won't be involved, he said. In the meantime, Kirkland police are catching up on a backlog of cases that built up during the investigation of Santoso's murder.

"It was quite a strain," Caldwell said. "Now that the trial is over, we're looking to get some time off."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]