Bremerton man killed interupting car theft

The sign outside the Manila Chef, a restaurant on Kitsap Way, as well as numerous flowers, mark the scene of a homicide which took place there Sunday morning.  - Photo by Christopher Mulally
The sign outside the Manila Chef, a restaurant on Kitsap Way, as well as numerous flowers, mark the scene of a homicide which took place there Sunday morning.
— image credit: Photo by Christopher Mulally

Robert Vernon Priest Jr. pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree murder Wednesday, Feb. 26 in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Priest is suspected in the homicide of Ross Brethour, a 36-year-old Bremerton resident, killed outside the Manila Chef restaurant in Bremerton this week.

It was in the early hours of Sunday morning, Feb. 23, that Brethour, a Navy chief petty officer, interrupted a man believed to be Priest who was in the process of stealing his vehicle outside the restaurant on Kitsap Way.

A witness reported that Brethour had come to pick her up at Manila Chef after she finished her shift there at 4 a.m. Brethour was allowing the car to warm up and waited inside the restaurant before he and the witness left together.

Brethour spotted his white 1997 Ford Taurus being backed out of the parking lot. He attempted to stop the thief by jumping onto the hood of the moving vehicle. The witness reported that the car stopped and then moved forward, causing Brethour to fall to the ground. The driver then ran him over and sped away.

Brethour was found bleeding heavily from the mouth and nose at about 4:20 a.m. in the parking lot of the restaurant, and was immediately airlifted to Harborview Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 5:57 a.m.

At about 10:30 p.m that same evening, a caller reported to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office that the stolen vehicle involved in the homicide at Manila Chef was located at a mobile home park on McWilliams Road.

Both Bremerton Police officers and Washington State troopers responded to the call. Shortly before 11 p.m., a vehicle matching the description of the car involved in the homicide began to accelerate rapidly toward the exit of the mobile home park. Upon seeing that the roadway was blocked by several law enforcement vehicles, the driver stopped the car.

Police arrested the driver, identified as Priest, a 45-year-old unemployed Bremerton man with an extensive criminal history, in connection with the homicide.

A piece of folded white paper fell onto the ground as Priest exited the vehicle. It was found to contain a powdery white substance later identified as methamphetamine.

Additional court documents state that Priest had been attempting to purchase drugs at three different locations Saturday evening, Feb. 22. The report states that Priest had told witnesses that he was, “going to get something even if he had to rob someone,” that night.

A man at one of the mobile homes, who referred to Priest as “Baja Bob,” reported that Priest had been at the mobile home since 9 p.m. Sunday and was trying to sell the Taurus.

Priest is held on bail of $250,000 and faces life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. He will appear in court again for a pre-trial hearing on March 19, at this time his trial date is set for April 14.

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