Inside the yellow tape: Federal Way native recounts his career as a homicide detective

New author Cloyd Steiger worked more than 200 murder cases.

There is rarely such a thing as an innocent victim in Cloyd Steiger’s line of work.

In the 36 years the Federal Way native worked for the Seattle Police Department — 22 of those as a homicide detective — he found that most people inadvertently cause their own death, whether it be from wrong life choices or associating with the wrong crowd.

Well, not every victim.

Shannon Harps was 22 years old when she was murdered by James Williams outside of her Seattle apartment in 2007.

She was a truly innocent victim who was simply unlucky enough to cross paths with a psychopath, Steiger said.

“[Williams] just said he saw her go by and he snapped,” Steiger said.

In an excerpt from Steiger’s book, “Homicide: The View From Inside the Yellow Tape,” he describes how erratic Williams was during the interview when he confessed.

He confessed that during the murder, he told Harps to die, but after he saw coverage of her on the news, he felt remorseful.

Williams said during the interview, “I realized I’d killed my soulmate,” according to Steiger.

Despite a career that put him in the midst of real-life murder scenes until his retirement in 2016, Steiger never lost his kind-hearted personality, said his wife, Doreen.

“Cloyd is just a good person. He’s very kind. He has a great sense of humor,” she said.

She thinks what helped him through the tough parts of his job was coming home and talking to her.

“He would tell me all of the details about the cases he was working on, maybe a little bit too much detail sometimes,” she said. “But I think that helped him decompress.”

Steiger got interested in becoming a detective after reading non-fiction police books at the local library while growing up. His parents noticed how set he was on this career field even as a child.

“I never changed my mind. Even in high school, I was still talking about this and working toward this,” he said.

After he graduated from Decatur High School in 1976, while working as an EMT, he applied for a police officer position with Seattle police and was offered the job on his 21st birthday.

This competitive career field isn’t for the faint of heart, he said.

“This is an intense field,” Steiger said. “It’s not a job where you don’t get your hands dirty. … You’ve got to be prepared to be able to say, ‘If I had to, I could kill somebody.’”

Although investigating murders is a difficult aspect of the job, Steiger said victims aren’t the only ones affected.

“The people who are the forgotten victims of homicide are the loved ones left behind, the friends, the family who didn’t get killed, because they suffer the rest of their lives.”

Steiger worked more than 200 murders during his time as a homicide detective, some cases which he wrote about in a 2018 biography to showcase his experience seeking justice for the victims of these heinous crimes.

Steiger currently works as the chief criminal investigator for the Washington State Attorney General’s office helping with murder cases in Washington, Oregon and Montana.