Former Auburn Police Chief Jake Evans dies

Courtesy photo
Former APD Chief Jake Evans.

Courtesy photo Former APD Chief Jake Evans.

Auburn’s famous Excedrin tampering case of 1985 shined a light on the qualities of then Auburn Police Chief Jake Evans, those who knew him said — his gifts as a detective, his doggedness, his capacity for hard work and his insistence on making sure everything was handled properly.

And in the end, the trial court sentenced Auburn resident Stella Maudine Nickell to 90 years in prison for product tampering, after she had poisoned Excedrin capsules with lethal cyanide, killing her husband, Bruce Nickell, as she had intended, and Sue Snow, who just happened to choose a poisoned bottle at the market where Nickell had placed it to mask the murder of her husband.

Nickell’s 1988 conviction and prison sentence were the first under federal product tampering laws instituted in the wake of the 1982 Chicago Tylenol murders.

“That was one of Jake’s finest performances, and Jake was the one who would not let it go. He just kept poking at that,” said former Auburn Mayor Bob Roegner, who appointed Evans to the post in 1985.

Evans died Feb. 14, 2021.

For Roegner, who had kept in touch with Evans over the years and knew his health was failing, the news did not come as a surprise, but it still hurt.

“He was just an outstanding police chief,” said Roegner. “Super professional, and someone I just warmed to immediately. I had just fired the former police chief, and Jake was the right guy at the right time. A couple of books about the Nickell case, one of them, ‘Bitter Almonds,’ were even written about him.”

According to the Auburn Police Department, Evans, who was Auburn’s chief of police from 1985-1994, launched his long career in police work as a patrol officer in Shelton, Wash., on Aug. 1, 1968.

From there, he served in various capacities and ranks in the city of Lacey and in Thurston County, including under-sheriff.

Evans earned his bachelor’s degree in community services at St. Martin’s College in 1974, and his master’s in public administration at Pacific Lutheran University in 1979. He graduated from the FBI Academy in 1982 and from LEEDS in 1992.

When Evans arrived in Auburn, he quickly advanced the department in several areas, among them an updated records management system and an officer awards program.

In 1988, the Auburn Police Department was one of the first agencies to become state accredited, meeting more than 220 mandatory standards and creating and maintaining a written policy manual. Finally, he launched the DARE program at Auburn Police Department, which lasted more than 20 years.

After retiring from Auburn in 1994, Evans spent many years as an interim chief throughout the state. He was known by his peers for following the rules along with his honesty, his love for his profession, his quirky sense of humor and his strong beliefs.

“His ethics were outstanding, and some of the stuff that’s going on with police departments nowadays, I never had to worry about with Jake,” Roegner said. “He ran a solid department. He expected top performance from his troops. He will be missed by all of those who worked with him.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

File photo
APD looking for one more member for the Police Advisory Committee

The city of Auburn formed its Police Advisory Committee last fall to… Continue reading

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

File photo
Men punch women in the face | Police blotter

Auburn Police responded to the following calls for service, among many others,… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Nine adults and one infant were displaced in fire | Fire blotter

Between Feb. 15 and Feb. 22, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

File photo
Prosecutor charges two men in severe beating involving croquet mallet

Auburn Police reported that on the afternoon of Feb. 15, Theodore Michael… Continue reading

A South King Fire & Rescue firefighter places a used test swab into a secure COVID test vial on Nov. 18, 2020, at a Federal Way testing site. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Masks are still king in combating new COVID strains

A top UW doctor talks new strains, masks and when normal could return.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Democrats look to allow noncitizens to serve on school boards

A Senate bill takes aim at a state law requiring anyone seeking elected office to be a citizen.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State health leader: We have a plan, we don’t have the supply

Two months after the COVID vaccine landed in Washington, many still struggle to secure their shots.

Most Read