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Two charged with murder of retired professor they met on Scruff

Philip Brewer Christina Joel Hardy accused murder Curtis Engeland
Riverside County Sheriff’s Office; Washington State Patrol

From left: Philip Brewer, Christina Hardy, and Curtis England

The two are also accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars and buying a car with the man’s credit card.

Police have arrested two people they say poisoned and fatally stabbed a retired university professor in Washington State they first met on the gay dating and hookup app Scruff.

Philip Brewer, 32, and Christina Hardy, 47, were arrested Thursday in California in connection with the robbery and murder of Curtis Engeland, 74, of Mercer Island, Wash. Engeland was reported missing by his family February 24, and his body was located March 7 near Cosmopolis, Wash.

Brewer and Hardy are charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree theft, and identity theft.

Police said the pair “concocted a scheme to kill the victim and then move into his home, all while taking over his financial accounts and making extravagant purchases just hours after killing him,” according to court documents seen by Daily Mail and other media outlets.

Brewer and Engeland first met on Scruff in January and had a first date at a Starbucks the same month, according to court documents. The pair later had a date at Engeland’s home on Mercer Island to watch a movie, but Engeland fell asleep at some point. When he awoke, he found Brewer gone and his cell phone, car and safe deposit box keys, credit cards, and money missing. He called police and reported the thefts.

Over the next several weeks, tens of thousands of dollars were siphoned from Engeland, court documents say. One notable alleged expenditure was the purchase of a car for $25,000 using one of Engeland’s credit cards.

Police believe Brewer and Hardy confronted Engeland at his home on February 23, poisoned him with an injection of fentanyl, stabbed him in the neck, and dumped his body in Cosmopolis. The pair then moved into Engeland’s home and sent text messages to themselves to confuse authorities, according to police. They sent texts to Engeland’s family and friends saying he would be gone for “the next three to six weeks” and that he was renting out part of the house to a person named “Christina” while he was gone.

One of those friends, a man romantically involved with Engeland and who was planning on moving in with him, received a text at 3 a.m. the next day. He told investigators he found the text “suspicious in nature due to the time and subject matter,” according to court documents. He reported Engeland missing and said Brewer and Hardy were now living in his home.

When police arrived at the residence, they found Brewer, Hardy, and her son. They told authorities Engeland was gone but had permitted them to use his home and car in his absence. During the interview, Engeland’s siblings arrived. Like the suspicious friend, they also were alarmed by the texts they had received, noting that their brother was a retired English professor who “always texted in complete, grammatically correct sentences.” Brewer, Hardy, and her son vacated the property at the behest of the siblings, and police immediately began their investigation.

Not long after, Engeland’s vehicle was found in a supermarket parking lot with a bloodstained box in the truck bed.

The big break in the case came last Thursday. A man was pulled over for speeding by the California Highway Patrol near the desert town of Blythe on the Arizona border. The man said he was dating Hardy’s daughter and was on the run from Brewer and Hardy, who were staying with him. He claimed the pair confessed to killing Engeland by poisoning and stabbing him, and then dumping the body. Police said the fleeing man told them the pair planned on kidnapping Hardy's daughter to take her back to Washington, as they knew they were going to jail and wanted the daughter to watch over Hardy’s other children.

Brewer and Hardy were arrested the same day in California. They will be extradited to Washington to face trial.

“First and foremost, we must acknowledge Mr. Engeland’s family – when this incident was first reported to police as a missing person, we hoped for a better outcome,” Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes said in a statement. “The family remained determined to help our investigation over the past few weeks and we hope some comfort can be found through the hard work being done to bring justice for Curtis and his loved ones.”

Engeland’s neighbor of over 10 years, Laurie Goeken, told radio station KIRO he had lived alone since his husband passed away several years earlier.

“He was a friend of ours, a neighbor, and just a wonderful person all around,” Goeken told KIRO. “Just a very, very special person. An avid gardener and a hiker.”

She said everyone who knew him was immediately suspicious about his disappearance.

“The fact that he was missing was highly, highly unusual,” Goeken said. “He had cats that he loved. And we would look after his cats when he was gone. He would look after ours. He would never leave them unattended.”

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