Former classmates who attended Kamiakin High School with Arie Arlynn Lee in the early 1990s are still mourning their longtime friend.
Miriam Byerly of Milton met Lee their freshman year in 1991. She remained friends with Lee, who was known as Arie Edward in school, the rest of Lee’s life.
Byerly last talked to Lee, 37, on May 25, less than two weeks before Lee and her three children were shot dead by Michael Augustine “August” Bournes, 59, her companion and the kids’ father.
Bournes then set fire to their southwestern Montana log cabin, laid down next to the children’s bodies and shot himself with a .45-caliber pistol.
Friends say there were signs of trouble with Bournes, who had recently had an argument with the closest thing to neighbors in the remote wilderness area they lived in.
“At the end, you could only talk to her for a little bit before she would have to go,” said Byerly, who has lived off-and-on in the Tri-Cities for years.
That was a change from the woman her friends knew.
“She exuded confidence, was strong, spoke her mind and had a great sense of humor,” Byerly said. “She was also kind, loyal, smart and the most loving person I’ve ever met. She was and always will be a beautiful soul.”
Lee was born in Spokane and moved to the Tri-Cities at a young age, said her brother, Phil High-Edward.
Tashia Flieger of Pasco took her children to visit Lee and her family at their Montana cabin in 2013, when they were in the area for her son’s baseball tournament. Her son helped Bournes get firewood for the long winter, while she watched Lee cook on a propane stove.
“Everything she did was homemade,” Flieger said. “I must have a million pictures on my phone of something she would bake.”
Flieger and Lee last saw each other a year later, when Lee visited them in Kalispel when Flieger returned for another tournament. Flieger cried for hours after they said goodbye, only to talk to Lee and learn that she did the same.
After Lee’s youngest child, Arie, who was 1 when she was killed, was born, Flieger noticed a change.
“I sent her a picture of the kids back in November and it took her a week to respond,” she said. “She said she was too busy.”
Flieger feels bad because she did not try harder to find out what was going on with her friend.
“I let her phase out,” she said. “Arie was not the kind of person who would share if she was going through hard times.”
Lee hasn’t lived in the Tri-Cities since graduating from Kamiakin in 1995, but her friends continued to keep up with her. They have scheduled a celebration of life service at 6:30 p.m. June 18 at Calvary Chapel Tri-Cities, 10611 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick.
“There is an outpouring of people here who knew her and loved her,” Flieger said. “She was a huge part of the community, and her mother was a huge part of the community.”
High-Edward, who lives in Spokane, will return to the Tri-Cities for the event.
“I think it’s a perfect time to come together and remember Arie for the very sweet, nice, kind person she was,” he said.
Lee was an all-conference soccer player all four years at Kamiakin. She was also a manager on the high school’s softball team, allowing her to support her friend Byerly.
She was offered an athletic scholarship to Central Washington University in Ellensburg, but instead took an academic scholarship there. She played one year of soccer and later graduated from the school.
Lee, who took her mother’s maiden name after her mother and stepfather divorced, moved to Western Washington and married Duane Haas, who was in the Air Force, in 2000, Byerly said.
Lee worked as a probation officer and was happy with Haas for years, Byerly said. They moved to Arizona in 2006 and Lee was accepted to Arizona State University’s law school. But they drifted apart, and later divorced, when Lee wanted children and Haas didn’t.
Lee moved to New Mexico and opened a doughnut shop called Baker’s Dozen, because she couldn’t afford law school, her brother said.
She worked 10-hour days six days a week, attending a Catholic church in the area, Byerly said.
She was still recovering from her divorce when Bournes walked into the doughnut shop, saw a picture of Lee on the wall and asked to meet her, Byerly said.
“He was a ranch hand and charming to Arie,” Byerly said. “She told me he used to be a successful builder and was going to go back to that.”
Bournes, who never married Lee, convinced Lee to sell her business, Byerly said.
Byerly feels he met her at a vulnerable time. She was concerned about Lee selling the business, as well as the age difference between the two.
Lee sold the doughnut shop in 2008 and used her money to buy a semi-truck so she and Bournes could make deliveries around the country under the name Lady Bug Trucking, Byerly said.
Lee did the business operations as they drove across the country, never staying in one place very long.
“She turned herself inside out to do stuff for him, and he just kept getting more and more weird,” she said.
They stayed on the road after their first son, Augustine, known as Gus, was born, but Lee eventually wanted to settle down with the kids. Byerly said that, in one of the few times Bournes listened to her, he agreed to build the cabin in the Montana wilderness.
“Arie was happy for a while, and the kids were so sweet and loved their mom and dad,” Byerly said.
But, on the visits they had with the family, Byerly did not like the way Bournes controlled Lee. A couple of incidents she heard about stand out.
Bournes kicked Lee out of their truck on the side of the freeway while she was eight months pregnant, leaving her to walk to a pay phone to call Flieger and ask for help. Flieger was going to buy her a plane ticket, but Lee changed her mind after talking to Bournes.
Bournes refused to take Lee to the hospital when she was giving birth to young Arie. Byerly said he wouldn’t remove the snow from their driveway even though he owned a plow, leaving Lee to have the baby in the bathtub.
Lee did not see a doctor for at least two weeks after giving birth, Flieger said.
Bournes was emotionally abusive to Lee, Byerly said.
“I do believe that Arie was going to leave him,” she said.
Bournes held anti-government views, but Byerly said he wasn’t “off the deep end” about it.
The pain Lee’s friends feel is compounded by the way her and her kids’ lives were taken, Byerly said.
“My heart was devastated by the loss of my best friend and her precious children, who I loved so much,” Byerly said.
None of Lee’s friends believe statements made by Bournes in a phone call to an acquaintance — that he killed Lee and the children because Lee had been “mocking him and riding him all day.”
“Arie was a beautiful soul,” Flieger said. “Everybody who knows her knew that. There is not a person in the world who believed she would mock anybody.”