Valerie Claplanhoo, a Sequim woman slain Jan. 2 in her South Fifth Avenue apartment, was killed with a knife or other sharp weapon or object that caused deadly injuries to her head and neck, Clallam Prosecuting Attorney-County Coroner Mark Nichols said last week.
A month after her death, authorities are still seeking her killer or killers and had no suspects as of Feb. 1, Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said.
Nichols said he is awaiting the autopsy report and toxicology results for Claplanhoo, 57, a Makah tribal member eulogized at remembrance events Jan. 20 in Sequim and Jan. 21 in Port Angeles as a woman who had little but gave much.
The Sequim Police Department is conducting the homicide investigation on its own. The agency has 19 police officers.
“We do have people we are seeking out to interview,” Crain said.
“I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow account of the condition of the body and the weapon used,” she said. “We continue to work through the investigative steps that need to happen. That includes going through her history, what she’s been up to for the last year.
“Some people we are attempting to interview don’t have an address that makes it easy for them to track down.”
Sunbelt Apartments, where Claplanhoo lived, is owned by Peninsula Housing Authority and managed by Serenity House of Clallam County, which provides services for people who are homeless.
Rents are based on income level.
Sunbelt resident Becky Ruby said on Feb. 1 that tenants who knew Claplanhoo (pronounced Clap-lan-a-hoe) are continuing to remember their friend.
“This has been a tough one for me, not just because of how she died but because she was so dear to me,” Ruby said.
Ruby said she is heartened by the recent arrests of three people in a Dec. 26 triple-homicide at Bear Meadow Road, even though authorities have said the killings in Port Angeles and Sequim are not connected.
“Seeing that they made some arrests in Port Angeles gave me hope, because the police are not talking about what they are doing, and of course they shouldn’t be, but knowing they have stuff going on behind the scenes gives me a little bit of hope,” Ruby said.
Claplanhoo’s daughter, Kish, an Elma resident, visited her mother’s apartment on Jan. 31 and picked up some of her mother’s personal belongings to take back to Neah Bay.
Claplanhoo had not lived in the tiny West End village for years but still had family connections to the reservation, where a memorial service is planned for May 4 and where her relative, formal tribal Chairman Edward Eugene Claplanhoo, played an integral part in tribal history.
Kish also took some remembrance items that were left outside of Claplanhoo’s front door and from a table in a common area of the apartments, under a mirror still decorated with photos of Claplanhoo in happier times.
Ruby said she and Kish smudged Claplanhoo’s apartment, a ceremony in cultures including Native American in which sacred plants are lit to produce purifying smoke.
“I’m learning the stages of grief as I go,” Ruby said.
“It’s pretty fascinating to actually be in recovery and be in touch with that part of myself that I can sit here and feel what I feel, not liking that she’s gone, but I am also honoring her in my own ways.
“I sat down and wrote her a letter this morning and thanked her for her friendship.”
Ruby recalled often walking outside her apartment door and finding a gift from her friend.
Once, it was a bag that belonged to Claplanhoo’s that, the day before, Ruby had admired.
“I miss my pal,” Ruby said. “I feel ripped off.”
Paul Gottlieb is a Senior Staff Writer with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.