The Man on the Trail

Date Published 10.01.09
In 1992, when he was 21, James J. Bondsteel shot his roommate, a good friend of his from high school, through the heart with a high-powered rifle.  He pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in a plea deal, and served four years in prison.

Bondsteel, who had been in the Coast Guard at the time of the shooting, moved around the towns of central Oregon where he grew up for a while after his release.  Years went by.  He dabbled in real estate.  He married and eventually settled in the Spokane, Washington area.  At some point the real estate business didn't work out, so he turned to long haul trucking.  By 2008, he was living in Loveland, Colorado.

On Sunday, Sept. 13, around 11:00 a.m., two sisters-in-law from Casper, Wyoming were hiking a trail in the Roosevelt National Forest outside Loveland when a man wielding a knife jumped out at them.  He was wearing gray camouflage and a face mask.  He grabbed one of the women and held the knife to her throat.  The other woman began fighting him off with a walking stick.  Together the two women were able to defend themselves and the man fled.  The women hiked for 40 minutes to the nearest cabin and called for help.

During a roadblock set up after the attack police became interested in a man from Loveland whom they described as "uncooperative."  He continued to be a person of interest as police amassed evidence.  Nearly two weeks later, they arrested him and charged him with seven felony counts, including second degree kidnapping and criminal attempt to commit sexual assault.  His name?  James J. Bondsteel.

What has Bondsteel been up to between the 1992 murder of his roommate and the recent attack on the two women?  As the mother of the first victim said, it's unlikely he just woke up after 17 years and decided to become violent again.

Bondsteel's criminality is varied.  His first victim's mother says he often carried a gun and had anger issues.  He was carrying a knife in the most recent attack, and police say he intended to sexually assault his victims.  That background information, along with additional research into Bondsteel's former residences and his family members, make him an interesting suspect in several cases.

Bondsteel spent a lot of time in the central Oregon area and also in Spokane, Washington.  We know he's familiar and comfortable with hiking trails, and an Internet search shows that a close family member is an outdoor guide in Oregon.  It seems like the outdoors, and possibly hiking and camping in particular, is a big part of his life.

On 4th of July weekend, 2005, the bodies of Steven Haugen and Jeanette Bauman were found in a camping area about 70 miles southeast of Eugene, Or.  The couple had been shot to death.  The case remains unsolved.

A year later, a mother and daughter were shot to death while hiking a trail in the middle of the day in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington.

Another case worth looking into is the Shenandoah National Park murders.  The bodies of Lollie Winans and Julianne Williams were found June 1, 1996 at a wooded campsite in the park's backcountry.  Their wrists were bound and their throats slit.  Despite some strong suspects over the years, the case is unsolved.  Records indicate Bondsteel lived in Portsmouth, Virginia at one time.

Maybe the most intriguing, but scary, bit of information about Bondsteel is that he's an unemployed long-haul trucker.  That means this violent man, who planned enough that he donned camouflage and a face mask for his stealth attack in the Colorado wilderness, has been crisscrossing the country, making quick stops and then disappearing, for years.

James Bondsteel