Pitre pleads guilty in ex-wife's murder

The ex-husband of a Port Orchard woman found dead in the trunk of her car in Seattle 15 years ago pleaded guilty to her murder last month — but still maintains he never meant for her to die.

Roland Augustin Pitre Jr. accepted a plea bargain from the King County Prosecutor’s Office last month on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of his ex-wife, Cheryl Pitre, in 1988.

Filing what is known as an Alford plea, Pitre maintains, “I did not intend to cause her death, but I believe a jury would find I did, given the evidence against me,” according to court documents.

Pitre, 51, who is already serving at least 25 years in prison after attempting to kidnap his stepson in Bremerton in 1993, faces another 35 to 45 years when he is sentenced in King County Superior Court tomorrow for hiring a prison acquaintance to kill the mother of his two young children.

Cheryl Pitre was 33 when she disappeared on Oct. 15, 1988, after her Saturday night shift at P.J.’s Market on Mile Hill Drive.

A day later, a man found her purse floating in Lake Union, just north of downtown Seattle, and on Oct. 20 police discovered her bound and beaten body in the trunk of her car, which was parked nearby.

Although detectives from both the Kitsap County Sheriff’s and Seattle Police Departments quickly suspected Pitre was involved in his ex-wife’s death, charges were not filed until January of this year when a witness came forward linking Pitre and the alleged hitman, Frederick James McKee, 45, to the crime.

According to the witness, Pitre agreed to give McKee — whom Pitre met on McNeil Island after being convicted of hiring a man to kill his mistress’ husband in 1980 — several thousand dollars to kill Cheryl after he convinced her to name him sole beneficiary in both a new will and a $100,000 life insurance policy by June of 1988, although the pair had already divorced.

Two weeks after McKee got out of prison in October, the witness claimed Pitre took McKee to the hardware store to buy rope and duct tape, then showed him where his ex-wife lived.

McKee then allegedly kidnapped Cheryl when she returned home from work Oct. 15, tying her up and putting her in the trunk of her car before beating her to death.

Based on that witness’ testimony, investigator’s tested DNA evidence found on the duct tape used on the dead woman’s limbs that allegedly connected McKee to her homicide.

When questioned again in prison recently, Pitre admitted he hatched the scheme with McKee, but claimed he had always planned to step in and save her life in a grand gesture he said he hoped would win her back.

According to the pre-sentencing documents filed in Kitsap County Superior Court after Pitre was convicted of first-degree burglary and conspiring to kidnap his stepson from his Bremerton apartment, Pitre claimed that crime was also an elaborate scheme to win back his second wife’s affections after separating from her, and that he never meant to harm the teenager.

The documents also contained testimony from Pitre’s 14-year-old daughter, who was 10 and her brother a 1-year-old at the time of their mother’s death.

The girl said she lived in fear that her father would do anything in his power to get her mother’s life insurance money, which was put into trust for her and her brother, rather than give it to Pitre when he requested it a month after Cheryl’s death.

The girl went on to say that she learned from court transcripts from her father’s 1980 trial that he had plotted to kill her when she was a baby, allegedly planning to take out a $20,000 life insurance policy on her when she was 20-months old.

McKee — currently serving 12 years in Walla Walla State Penitentiary for manufacturing methamphetamine — was also charged last month, but pleaded not-guilty to the first-degree murder charge.

His next court appearance is a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 16.

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