WA MARY ANDERSON JANE DOE: WF, 30-50, found suicide in hotel room in Seattle, WA - 11 Oct 1996

159UFWA - Unidentified Female
Reconstructions of the decedent (far right by Wesley Neville). To view a postmortem photographs, please click here.

Date of Discovery: October 11, 1996
Location of Discovery: Seattle, King County, Washington
Estimated Date of Death: Days prior
State of Remains: Recognizable face
Cause of Death: Suicide by cyanide poisoning

Physical Description
Estimated Age: 30-50 years old
Race: White
Sex: Female
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Hair Color: Brown to auburn
Eye Color: Brown
Distinguishing Marks/Features: Her hair was combed, her nails were painted cream white and she wore makeup. Copper intrauterine device. She had some sort of breast surgery at some point. It had produced scars beneath both breast and around the nipple area.

Dentals: Unknown. Denture plate present.
Fingerprints: Unknown.
DNA: Unknown.

Clothing & Personal Items
Clothing: Black leggings and a black top.
Jewelry: Unknown.
Additional Personal Items: The woman's miscellaneous belongings: velor outfits, shoes, slippers, black leather gloves, leather purse, Estée Lauder cosmetics, toothpaste, perfume, Metamucil, Crystal Light, pantyhose, a kitchen bowl and an iron were packed in several luggage bags.

Circumstances of Discovery
The decedent checked in to a room at Seattle's Hotel Vintage Park on October 9, 1996 under the name "Mary Anderson."

She paid cash for her room. She left an nonexistent address of 132 East Third Street, New York, NY 11103 and a phone number of 212-569-5549; the phone number also does not exist.

When she failed to check out of her room two days later as expected, hotel staff entered the room and found her deceased.

Investigators found a note scribbled upon hotel stationery:

To Whom It May Concern.
I have decided to end my life and no one is responsible for my death.
Mary Anderson.
P. S. I have no relatives. You can use my body as you choose.

Investigating Agency(s)
Agency Name: King County Medical Examiner's Office
Agency Contact Person: Katherine Taylor
Agency Phone Number: 206-731-3232
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: 96-1207

Agency Name: Seattle Police Department
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 206-625-5011
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: 96-459630

NCIC Case Number: U640021404
NamUs Case Number: 12916

Information Source(s)
Seattle Pi (archived)

-Click the Report button if you'd like this case moved to the general discussion area to be opened for commenting.
Last edited by a moderator:


Well-known member

Afterward, the autopsy is performed. "When we do an autopsy, the first thing we do is open
the chest and the abdomen with a big wide incision. We remove the breastplate, which
exposes the lungs, heart, intestines, liver, kidneys, and so forth. The organs come out and
the doctor does the dissections. After each organ is dissected, they go into a bucket lined
with a plastic bag. While the organs are being removed and dissected, another autopsy
technician opens the head and removes the brain, which is also examined, dissected, and
placed in the bucket. When all of that is finished, the body is thoroughly washed -- inside
and out. The plastic bag in the bucket, containing the organs, is closed and returned to the
abdominal area. The body is sewn shut and the skull is replaced."
If x-rays are needed, the corpses are wheeled into a room with state-of-the-art equipment.
"We do our own laundry, for obvious reasons," Webster says, chuckling slightly. He points to
a set of washers-and-dryers located in a hallway adjoining the autopsy room to the x-ray
room. "Do dead bodies bother you?" Webster asks.
I have absolutely no idea. I've never seen a dead body. "Um, no," I lie. "Not at all."
There are two coolers at the King County morgue. Both are heavily secured. Webster
punches a numeric code and unlocks a large steel door not unlike those found in the
security vaults at banks. We look inside the first cooler and, as far as the eye can see, the
room is filled with bodies. The bodies are covered -- most zipped up in white nylon body
bags and lying on trays. The cooler is extremely noisy -- overhead fans hum and whir. The
first cooler is reserved for bodies whose autopsies have yet to be fully completed. Some are
waiting for identification or dental records. More than a dozen bodies crowd this cooler and,
though most are covered, one body is not -- that of an elderly man weighing close to four
hundred pounds. He is wearing blue jeans, red suspenders, socks, and no shirt. His gut is
massive, more akin to a medicine ball than a human belly. The man's head is wrapped in a
white towel.
"Did the man drown?" I ask, studying the corpse's gray cheeks, seemingly waxy skin, and
water-filled belly.
"No," Webster replies, explaining that the man had cirrhosis of the liver.

Directly across from the fat man's corpse is a tray covered with a white sheet, yet there is
no body. Webster lifts the sheet and reveals a cluster of bones and dirt. He explains that
this is a homicide victim that was buried by her killer in a shallow grave. When the killer was
caught, his victim's body was exhumed -- some nine months after being buried -- and
brought into the KCMEO. These are the victim's remains.
The second cooler is actually an attachment of the first cooler, and is located at the rear.
Webster unlocks another security door; the eggy, somewhat ripe smell of dead bodies
overwhelms me. The second cooler is where bodies are stored after autopsies are
completed. They are simply waiting to be claimed, identified, or shipped out to a funeral
home. "Some of these bodies are here for several weeks," Webster comments, "which would
explain the smell."
When Mary Anderson was brought to the morgue, her corpse was fingerprinted, tagged, and
an autopsy was performed. A rib bone determined her approximate age. An IUD was
removed and its part number explored. Since investigators were unable to determine her
identity, the corpse remained in the morgue's coolers for more than eight months.
We head downstairs, back to Webster's office. He sits down at his computer and scans
several e-mail messages. I ask a few more questions about the case. How are other
indigent cases handled? What happens if the KCMEO can never determine the cause of
death or identify the body?
"We don't issue a death certificate until we actually know who it is, or determine a cause of
death," Webster explains. "We identify them as a category -- a category of unidentified. We
still have some of the Green River girls here. Some of Bundy's victims are still here. They
still have evidentiary value. During the Bundy and Green River days, DNA testing was
unheard of. Now we have DNA testing, which may be helpful. So now what we're trying to
do is think five or ten years down the line, 'What might be out there that we should be
trying to capture today?' Even though we have no use for it, or need for it, or understanding
of it, maybe there's something we should have today that might be of value ten or fifteen
years down the line."
While writing this article, I familiarized various acquaintances with Mary Anderson's story.
Some felt she was a woman scorned. Heartbroken and distraught after a failed marriage,


Well-known member

Mary Anderson returns to the room where she honeymooned. As a sort of 'religious
cleansing' and plea for forgiveness, she opens the Bible and takes her own life. Others
suggested that Mary Anderson didn't commit suicide but, rather, was murdered. During one
of my visits to the KCMEO, Webster and I discussed Mary Anderson's case with a staff
physician. A visiting attorney had mentioned Mary Anderson's suicide to him and posed a
rather Tom-Clancy-esque theory that Mary Anderson was a Ukrainian spy; when the Kremlin
didn't need her anymore, they disposed of her identification and poisoned her.
Whatever the case, one simple fact remains: Mary Anderson was very deliberate and
detailed in her suicide. Dr. Maples, when discussing suicide in his book, comments, "Most
suicides are far better thought out than most pregnancies. A tremendous deliberation, a
dreadful persistence mark some of the self-inflicted deaths I have seen. In such cases the
will to die can be as strong -- even far stronger -- than the will to live."
I explained to Webster that I believed Mary Anderson was an attention-monger -- a 'drama
queen,' if you will. She checks into a posh hotel, dolls herself up, opens the Bible, and goes
out in a grand exit. I told Webster I thought Mary Anderson was bitter. She had been
wronged. I asked, "Do you think, maybe, she kind of wanted to challenge some people?
Maybe she was thinking, 'Try to find me.'"
Webster disagreed. "I think what she wanted to do was she wanted to take her own life.
She wanted to appear good and decent, and that was about it," he explained. "I think she
just basically wanted to appear well to whoever found her body. She's got lipstick on. She
was clean. Her hair was combed. She just wanted to look nice when she was found and she
didn't want to cause anybody any trouble."
"But she caused you a lot of trouble," I countered. "I mean, you spent a lot of time trying to
solve this thing, right?"
"If she was trying to challenge people," Webster reasoned, "she wouldn't have left a note.
Only twenty-percent of the people who commit suicide leave a note."
I asked Webster what kind of a person he thinks Mary Anderson was.

"She just appears to be a very nice lady," Webster commented. "The lady who lived next
door to you; you knew she was there, but you didn't know anything about her. I think she's
from out-of-town. I think she's got family. She may have brothers and sisters. I don't have
a feeling one way or the other if she was married or divorced. I'm guessing she was married
and later divorced. I don't think she was a vagabond, simply because of the quality of her
clothing, the type of clothing, the way she traveled, and so forth. I don't think a street
person would plop down $450 in cash in a high-class hotel. I think if they were going to
[commit suicide], they would have probably gone to a park to do it, or gone someplace out
of public view. In all probability she was a Christian. You know, she may have taken that
path at the time she decided to take her life. She made a choice to take her life -- which I
don't find any objection to. I think that's her right. She didn't want to cause any problems.
She didn't want to be spectacular." Webster paused. "You know, you can just speculate hour
after hour after hour."
Seattle University psychology Professor Steven Halling has his own take on Mary Anderson.
"The one thing that is most profoundly associated with suicide is hopelessness," Halling
explains. "The ritual of her death is probably not too different from how she lived her life.
She is very careful, methodical. She goes to great lengths to hide how she dies, but none of
us, no matter what we do, can disappear without a trace."
But Mary Anderson did virtually that. When Webster sent press releases to the local
newspapers, requesting the public's help in identifying Mary Anderson, he forgot to include
one important detail. Mary Anderson's elusiveness is as much a characteristic as, say, her
height, weight, hair color, and other physical features.
After Mary Anderson's corpse was discovered at the Hotel Vintage Park, her body was kept
in a cooler at the county morgue. Investigators spent nearly a year trying to determine her
identity. Mary Anderson's body was finally sent to Wiggins & Sons Funeral Home and she
was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in mid-June 1997.
One morning I drove out to Crown Hill Cemetery, in the north section of Ballard. I had called
the previous day for directions, and spoke with the cemetery's director. "She's the one who
was found in that downtown hotel, right?" he asked, searching through records.
"Yes," I replied.


Well-known member

The director paused a moment. I could hear him flipping through pages. "Here it is. She was
buried as Jane Doe." I asked where exactly she was buried at the cemetery. "She's at the
east section of the property. Look for the dirt pile along the fence line. You're going to have
a hard time finding where she's buried because there isn't a marker for her."
The following morning, I drove north on Interstate 5, and took the 85th Street exit. I
headed west -- crossing Greenwood Avenue -- and passed a collection of small liquor stores,
dilapidated taverns, and petite beauty parlors. I turned on 12th Avenue NW and weaved
through several side streets lined with small houses and broken vehicles sitting dead on
front lawns. The ten-acre cemetery was tucked amid old houses and gravel side-streets. It
was drizzling slightly, and the morning's gray glow enveloped my car as I entered a narrow
gravel driveway. Off to the right was a small building -- the cemetery's office; a tiny wooden
sign, shaped like the open pages of a Bible, was off to the left. I thought it ironic that this
Bible-shaped sign -- with the words Crown Hill Cemetery painted on it in black letters --
designated the property, especially as Mary Anderson's body had been discovered at the
Hotel Vintage Park, a Bible opened across her chest to the Twenty-Third Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He
leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil. For Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head
with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Ballard civic leaders founded Crown Hill Cemetery in 1903. In 1916 "Old Man Sharpnack"
was buried upright, according to directions he left after committing suicide, sitting in his
wheelchair, in the mausoleum he built for himself at the cemetery. Legend has it that, when
things get real quiet at the cemetery, one can hear the cracking of Old Man Sharpnack's
I drove slowly down the gravel road, small stones popping and shifting beneath the car's
tires. The cemetery felt more like a park than anything spooky. The property was dotted
with rhododendron shrubs, huge cedars and firs, big-leaf maples, and hedges. I headed

toward the east end of the property and saw a massive, building-sized pile of dirt. I parked
the car and got out. To the left were three cement, coffin-sized blocks used to bore out the
holes in the earth for burial sites.
I walked toward the dirt pile. A landscaper was driving a lawnmower several yards away,
making circles and leaving fresh clippings in his wake. The cemetery was filled with the
sounds of the lawnmower's buzzing, and a few small birds chirped and shuffled in trees that
dotted the property. I snooped around the dirt pile and inspected the three cement blocks. I
wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, but I felt like I was at least near the spot where
Mary Anderson was buried.
"Can I help you?" The man on the lawnmower drove over to where I was standing, the
engine idling.
"I spoke to someone on the phone yesterday," I said, gesturing toward the office. "A woman
named Mary Anderson was buried here last summer. At least Mary Anderson was her
pseudonym. I'm looking for where she was buried."
The man turned off the lawnmower. He walked toward me, directing me to only a few feet
from where I had been standing. "She was buried right about here," he said, pointing at the
ground. He remembered the burial, he told me, and knew that the body was of someone
who had died in a downtown hotel.
I stared at the spot where Mary Anderson was buried. The lawn was damp, and fresh
clippings stuck to my boots. It struck me as sad that Mary Anderson was buried at the far
end of the cemetery, away from the other graves, near a dirt pile, with no headstone.
Wiggins & Sons Funeral Home designated the cemetery, the staff at Crown Hill had carried
out the burial, and the county picked up the tab. The whole thing was nothing more than a
series of business transactions. I snapped several photographs -- the cemetery, the dirt pile,
the patch of lawn where Mary Anderson was buried. There were very few people at the
cemetery. A woman was standing fifty yards away -- clutching flowers, staring at the
ground, and perhaps praying. Mary Anderson was clearly an outcast. No one would ever
visit her grave -- no one, of course, except nosy journalists like myself, enamored of the
mystery of her anonymous death. It were as though Mary Anderson was being punished for


Well-known member

what she had done -- buried near a dirt pile as far away from the cemetery's entrance as
I snapped a few more photographs and walked back to the car.
I climbed inside, started the engine, and took one last look at Mary Anderson's "non-grave."
Then I put the car in DRIVE and pulled away, leaving Crown Hill Cemetery.
In a strange way, Mary Anderson's absence is very much her presence. I unabashedly admit
that the mystery surrounding Mary Anderson is the reason why I'm even interested in her at
all. I am almost certain that, were I to discover Mary Anderson's real identity, I would be
rather disappointed. Take the mystery away and give this woman a childhood and siblings
and a career and life experiences, and she threatens to become terribly boring. But keep
her in Room 214 with a phony address and a pseudonym and no records of fingerprints, and
the woman is fascinating. It is indeed this sense of mystery that makes Mary Anderson
someone to think about; take away that mystery and she seems uninteresting.
No matter how many times I grilled Jerry Webster on the case, or debated burglarizing
Room 214, or visited Mary Anderson's grave, this inherent sense of unresolvedness and
mystery seemed proof I knew this woman better than anyone else -- a woman I'd never


Well-known member
Crown Hill Cemetery
8712 12th Ave NW, Seattle, WA

MARY ANDERSON: WF, 30-50, suicide at Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, WA - 9 Oct 1996 *GRAPHIC* - Page 2 4nWf9nh

MARY ANDERSON: WF, 30-50, suicide at Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, WA - 9 Oct 1996 *GRAPHIC* - Page 2 VeC5B4B

MARY ANDERSON: WF, 30-50, suicide at Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, WA - 9 Oct 1996 *GRAPHIC* - Page 2 MIMk4f5


Well-known member
Newspaper articles about Mary Anderson were soon published in the Seattle Times and
Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The case was aired nationally on Hard Copy. Webster's office was
bombarded with more than 200 leads. "The majority of them were really just more
suggestive, you know, like a suggestion to do this or that," Webster explains, flipping
through the file and reading off some of the leads. "For example, 'Well, she looks European.
Look in Europe.' Rather broad. But we did get twelve [leads] back that had promise. One
lead came from Pico Rivera, California, of a lady that appeared to be the same approximate
age and so forth. However, the lady that they believed it was had dentures, webbed toes,
and a scar on her thigh; our lady did not. So we cleared that one."
Several tipsters commented that Mary Anderson's handwriting "looked European." Webster
thought this was interesting. "You know, she does look European. She also looks Greek.
Though we did determine her race, there was no way anthropologically to determine


Staff member
It's now been 25 years since "Mary Anderson" checked into the hotel in Seattle.
As of May 2021, the King County Medical Examiner and Othram, Inc have teamed up to identify her. Hopefully answers are coming soon.


Forum statistics

Latest member