WA SEATTLE JANE DOE: WF, 30-50, found suicide in hotel room in Seattle, WA - 11 Oct 1996 - Alias Mary Anderson

Romulus

Well-known member
159UFWA - Unidentified Female
1609287872683.png1609287876451.png1609287881511.png
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.

Identifiers
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)
NamUs
Seattle Pi (archived)
Whamee.com



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Akoya

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Mary Anderson

This woman committed suicide in Seattle, WA. She 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 does not exist either. When she failed to check out of her room two days later as expected, hotel staff entered the room and found her deceased. She had taken cyanide.
Investigators found a note scribbled upon hotel stationery:
 

Akoya

Well-known member
POST-MORTEM PHOTOS BELOW SPOILER / GRAPHIC WARNING
SEpjLmL.jpg

Edited by staff to cover graphic content
 
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Akoya

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The cipher in room 214

Who was Mary Anderson and why did she die?

http://www.doenetwork.org/media/news124.html

October 6, 2005
Seattle PI
By CAROL SMITH SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Mary Anderson is fading, as surely as a forgotten Polaroid.

Her case file has been archived, a thick stack of dead ends and unanswered questions, shut in manila folders and buried in the county's morgue.

Tucked into a modest residential area on the edge of Ballard is the Crown Hill Cemetery, one of the few remaining family-owned cemeteries in Seattle. A maple leaf rests on the headstone of a man buried in the same grave as Mary Anderson -- she does not have her own marker. Records of the police investigation have been destroyed.

The man who retained the institutional memory of the case resigned from the King County Medical Examiner's Office four years ago.

This is just the way Anderson apparently wanted it.

If there was anything out of the ordinary about the woman's arrival at the Hotel Vintage Park in downtown Seattle that autumn day, it was only the weather -- a near-record 80 degrees. That much is recorded.

The woman herself slipped by unnoticed. She had called an hour or so earlier to reserve the room. She took a cab, got out around the corner with two bags and walked into the lobby alone on Oct. 9, 1996.

She signed the register "Mary Anderson." No one spotted the hesitation marks in her handwriting.

There were no tags on her luggage.

The desk clerk recalled nothing exceptional about her -- no accent, nor anything to make her seem out of place in the luxury boutique hotel.

Neatly groomed with artfully shaped brows and a pearly manicure, she carried an expensive olive-green, woven-leather purse and paid about $350 in cash for two nights in an elegant room at the end of a long, richly carpeted hallway.

This is where the trail of Anderson's life ends. No one knows precisely what happened next. Was she absorbed in the final details of erasing her identity -- perhaps flushing away a driver's license and address book, ripping the label off a prescription bottle? Did she anticipate the confusion her act would cause? Did she have second thoughts?

What we do know is this: She made no phone calls. Ordered nothing from room service. Instead, in some unknown sequence, she put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign, applied pink Est?e Lauder lipstick and combed her short auburn hair. She wrote a note on hotel stationery, opened her Bible to the 23rd Psalm and mixed some cyanide into a glass of Metamucil.

Then she drank it.

People who choose cyanide are trying for a clean getaway from this life. With cyanide, there is no question about outcome, or intent.

Her note, its corner tucked under the bottle of Metamucil to keep it from slipping off the hotel desk, read:

"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."

'No signs of a struggle'

When the guest in Room 214 did not check out at noon on the 11th, front-desk manager Josh Quarles signaled the bellman to look in on her.

The bellman knocked. But there was no answer. A deadbolt blocked his entry.

"At that point, we knew somebody was inside the room," Quarles said. Thinking she might be a sound sleeper, or hearing-impaired, Quarles went with the bellman and engineers to bypass the lock.

Inside the room, Mary Anderson had propped herself against the pillows on the bed. She appeared to have fallen asleep, a King James Bible clasped to her chest. Quarles checked her pulse. Nothing.

When police arrived, they found the room "neat and orderly," half a dozen stretch velour separates in hues of emerald green, fuchsia, navy and black hanging in the closet. She had a cobalt blue Himalaya Outfitters jacket and black leather gloves from Nordstrom. Her purse contained $36.78 in cash, but no ID. No key. No credit cards. She had packed slippers for comfort. Size 10.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued:

Police noted her final coordinates -- "head to the west, and feet to the east" -- like a ship gone down at sea. There were, according to official reports, "no signs of a struggle."

At that point, everyone assumed that this was a routine suicide case. Investigators had a name, contact phone number and address from the hotel registry.

What they didn't realize was this: Everything they thought they knew about Mary Anderson was a lie. Her name -- an alias, likely made up on the spot based on a later signature analysis. The New York address she'd given the hotel -- non-existent. The phone contact she left -- a wrong number.

Mary Anderson was a non-entity, a puzzle. A cipher.

Nine years later, Anderson's file is the coldest of cold cases -- one with low odds of being solved. It doesn't have enough sex appeal for tabloid television. It doesn't arouse public anger, or horror, in the same way as a murder. Some would argue, why bother with it? She asked for her death. She got it. On her terms. Case closed.

And yet ... her death raises other questions: How can a person live to middle age without leaving any ties to the world? What about her dry cleaner? The cosmetics counter sales lady? Did they wonder about a troubled woman in their midst?

Somewhere, someone must realize that she doesn't come around anymore. To push through life and touch no one, to develop no gravity that pulls anyone else into your orbit, seems impossible.

Even in her death, Mary Anderson has traction, a pull on certain strangers.

Jerry Webster is one of them.

'Things start to go wrong'

Webster, the former chief investigator for the King County Medical Examiner's Office, is the closest Anderson has to a proxy "next of kin." He is the man in charge of her affairs, at least on paper. His initials are next to the order not to release her personal effects from the Medical Examiner's Office until she is identified. It was he who finally ordered her body embalmed and buried at the county's expense.

Webster, a wiry, indefatigable man of 61, now runs a small mortuary in a shopping plaza on Capitol Hill. He does what he can to dignify any death. One of his proudest moments was when he accompanied the bodies of three Chinese men, found dead in a container on a ship in Elliott Bay, home to Fujian province in 2000.

It matters to him who the dead are. There are only a few cases in his 18-year career as a cop, and later in his 10 years as an investigator for the ME's office, that still haunt him. Mary Anderson's is one. It's a paradoxical mystery: If Mary Anderson wasn't who she said she was, then who killed her?

"It didn't appear it was going to be a complex case, or a difficult one," Webster said. "Then things started to go wrong."

Investigators ran her fingerprints through the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. They checked with Canadian and American missing-person records, with Interpol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They checked with cyanide manufacturers, and tried to trace her possessions. They sought the help of the media, casting for leads. Within a few months, she was officially categorized what she remains today: a Jane Doe.

Lives interrupted

The territory of the unidentified is its own purgatory. The unknown are not easily laid to rest.

The Internet is full of galleries of the disappeared and the reconstructed -- some missing parts of their bodies, faces, minds or memories -- arrayed in an eerie, endless lineup.

The lives of the missing seem interrupted in the most mundane ways -- they left to go jogging, or to the corner store. They were last seen getting into cars, or leaving bars. They didn't arrive at baby showers or jobs. They departed their lives abruptly, without explanation: "She said she'd call back, but she never did."

And under each photo, a refrain: Do you know? Do you recognize? Please call with information.

The advent of the Internet has offered both real hope and false promise to searchers.

"Let's say you entered (a set of criteria) into the National Crime Information Center database -- 190 pounds, brown eyes, age 50 to 60 -- you'd get thousands of hits -- 60 pages of them," Webster said. "Then you have to go through one by one."

According to Todd Matthews of Tennessee, who helped build the Doe Network, a Web archive of missing and unidentified people, there are nearly 6,000 unidentified bodies known to law enforcement agencies, and more than 100,000 missing -- enough to fill Safeco Field more than twice over.

"And that represents just 10 to 50 percent of cases," said Matthews, who in 1998 staked a reputation by using the Internet to solve one of the most famous missing-person cases of the 20th century -- the decades-old mystery of a 1968 murder victim then known only as "Tent Girl."

But the sheer power of the Web still can't overcome one fundamental limitation -- unless someone is reported missing somewhere, there is little hope of making a match with an unidentified body.

That is why, of the thousands of cases that have sifted through Matthews' hands, Anderson's stands out.

Cold-called by a reporter a continent away, Matthews immediately knew her case from its bare-bones description before a name was mentioned.

"You're talking about Mary Anderson," he said. She pulls on him, too, for this simple reason: At least those listed as missing have something Anderson claimed she did not: someone who is looking for them. Who missed them. Who, presumably, loved them.

A deliberate challenge?

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about Mary Anderson's death is the deliberateness with which she chose it.

The mind wants to make sense of it, to find a reason. Was it depression? Mental illness? A constellation of disappointments?

Webster is bothered by a different set of questions.

"I'm convinced she left us clues to who she was, and we missed them," Webster said, leaning back in his closet of an office at his mortuary. A few months into the investigation, Webster remembered that there was a copy of Seattle Weekly on the desk, a pressed maple leaf set on a page.

"The maple leaf might have been a clue," he said. Or perhaps it was pointing to one. Based on the symbolism of the leaf, he and his team redoubled their efforts to search in Canada.

Steen Halling, a professor of abnormal psychology at Seattle University, shares the view that there were no accidents about the way she died.

"She was very methodical," said Halling, who also recalled the case. "As in death, so she likely was in life."

Halling read something else into her choice as well: "I wonder if there was a bit of a challenge in it," he said. "If you're going to find out who I am, you're going to have to work at it."

False leads

Investigators did work at it, putting in countless hours and chasing dozens of leads.

"It's the only case I never solved in my 10 years," said Arleigh Marquis, the medical examiner's primary investigator on the case. Marquis has identified people from leads as slim as a copied key. Like Webster and Matthews, he still thinks about Mary Anderson.

Anderson refused to yield to their probing.

"We examined her hands to see whether they suggested an occupation," Webster said. Sometimes forensic investigators can judge, by the softness of the skin, or a pattern of calluses, what work a subject might have done. Nothing.

Her use of cyanide, however, likely meant that she had some education.

For a time, investigators thought she might have worked for a mining company or a chemistry lab -- either medical, or university -- where she would have had access to the poison. But a search produced nothing.

Her skill at hiding her identity may have been its own clue. Could she have worked for an intelligence operation? Was she a spy?

"That's entirely possible," said Marquis, now the medical examiner for Snohomish County. Her appearance was vaguely Eastern European, although her command of the written English language indicated that she was a native speaker, he said.

He also wouldn't rule out that she had family, despite her note.

"When people tell me that, I automatically don't believe it," he said. "It's more a request not to look."

Marquis believes that she was likely familiar with Seattle and had been to the hotel before, perhaps had a significant memory associated with it. The ZIP code she wrote in the hotel registry was for Astoria, N.Y., but checks there didn't reveal any information.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=72503910

Mary Anderson

MARY ANDERSON: WF, 30-50, suicide at Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, WA - 9 Oct 1996 *GRAPHIC* Cgn9GSp


Birth: unknown
Death: Oct. 9, 1996
Seattle
King County
Washington, USA

This Jane Doe checked into the Hotel Vintage Park on Oct 9, 1996 under the name "Mary Anderson". Law enforcement made an assumption that this was not her real name. She committed suicide and was found deceased on Oct 11, 1996 with a short note stating:

"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."

She also had a large black King James version of the Holy Bible upon her chest, opened to the 23rd Psalm.

She was white and estimated to be between the ages of 33 and 45, was 5'8 and 240 pounds. She had auburn hair and brown eyes. She was embalmed and buried in a pauper's section of Crown Hill Cemetery with no marker, sharing the plot with another burial of an indigent male.


Burial:
Crown Hill Cemetery
Seattle
King County
Washington, USA
Plot: 197-A
 

Akoya

Well-known member
http://unidentified.wikia.com/wiki/Mary_Anderson


Unidentified Wiki

Mary Anderson


Mary Anderson was the alias used by an unidentified woman who committed suicide in Seattle, Washington.

On October 9th, 1996, the unidentified woman checked into the Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, Washington. She used the alias, "Mary Anderson." She also gave a non-existent New York City phone number and address. The woman paid in cash.

She took cyanide mixed with Metamucil. As she died, she lay on the bed with a large, black Bible, reading the 23rd Psalm. This psalm is commonly associated with dying and funerals. ("The Lord is my shepherd...")

Two days later, when she failed to check out, the hotel staff entered the room. They found the deceased dressed in all black, with full make-up (including pink lipstick). She had left a suicide note on hotel stationary:

MARY ANDERSON: WF, 30-50, suicide at Hotel Vintage Park in Seattle, WA - 9 Oct 1996 *GRAPHIC* K7fuZ8D


"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."

Mary Anderson had short, reddish-brown hair and brown eyes. She had neatly-plucked eyebrows and manicured nails painted a cream color. Her breasts had surgical scars, most likely from a breast reduction. She also had a copper IUD and a dental plate. The desk clerk recalled that she had no distinct accent.

Her belongings included two luggage bags, six stretch velour outfits, an olive green purse made of woven leather, a cobalt blue jacket, black leather gloves, shoes, slippers, pantyhose, Estée Lauder cosmetics, perfume, an iron, a kitchen bowl, toothpaste, Crystal Light, and the Metamucil she had mixed with the cyanide.


Mary Anderson


Additional sketch by Wesley Neville

Sex Female
Race White
Location Seattle, Washington
Found October 11, 1996
Unidentified for 19 years
Postmortem interval Days
Body condition Recognizable face
Age approximation 30-50
Height approximation 5'8
Weight approximation 240 pounds
Cause of death Poisoning (suicide)
 

Akoya

Well-known member
POST-MORTEM PHOTO BELOW SPOILER / GRAPHIC WARNING
KYbTgJH.jpg

Edited by staff to cover graphic content
 
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Akoya

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According to the CDC, from 1996-2000 there were almost 60,000 women in the United States who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I think these women may have contracted HIV from a number of ways - sex, drug needles, blood transfusions, etc. Many times, it took years for the symptoms of HIV to develop, so many people had no idea they were infected. Some women contracted HIV passed from husbands or partners who had been sexually active with other HIV positive partners. During this era, it was horrible for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. They were scorned by society and they faced certain death from a disease that just ravaged their bodies. Even funeral homes were rejecting individuals who had died from AIDS because undertakers didn't want to work with the body fluids. People afflicted with AIDS looked like walking death as their bodies wasted away. Some employers no longer allowed people with AIDS to continue working, so many lost health insurance. Large cities opened shelters where AIDS victims could eat and sleep. Former executives and very successful people were living on the streets because they no longer had jobs or money. I know there were HIV/AIDS support groups and I have no doubt that suicide would have been a topic of discussion. I have no doubt that many men and women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS chose the suicide option because the alternatives were so horrible.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
By Todd Matthews
Copyright
©️
1997 – PRESENT By Todd Matthews
All Rights Reserved
THE GUEST IN Room 214 was in trouble.
It wasn't that she was unruly. In fact, after checking into her room at Seattle's Hotel Vintage
Park, she seemed quieter than catpaws on carpet. She never summoned room service. She
made no phone calls. She placed a DO NOT DISTURB sign outside the door, secured the
deadbolt, and bunkered herself away in the $175-a-night "Superior Guestroom." While other
hotel guests passed in and out of their rooms -- en route to business meetings, shopping in
the city, or drinks at Tulio's restaurant downstairs -- the guest remained in her room.
When the guest failed to check out of her room on Friday morning, the clerks at the Vintage
Park's front desk grew suspicious. Using their passkey, hotel staff entered the room. The
woman's miscellaneous belongings -- velour outfits, shoes, slippers, black leather gloves,
leather purse, Estee Lauder cosmetics, toothpaste, perfume, Metamucil, Crystal Light, panty
hose, a kitchen bowl, and an iron -- were packed in several luggage bags. The room was
tidy. The woman lay atop the bed. The bed sheets were stripped and her head propped
against a small stack of dark-print pillows. She wore black leggings and a black top. Her hair
was neatly combed. Her nails were painted cream white. She wore make-up. A large black
Bible lay open across the woman's chest.
Why hadn't the woman left her room for two days? And why hadn't she checked out of her
room when she was supposed to? Furthermore, why didn't she stir when hotel staff entered
the room?
Simple. The woman was dead.
A glass tumbler with cyanide residue glistened on the nightstand.
The Seattle police were called.


The King County Medical Examiner's Office was notified.
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.
JERRY WEBSTER, CHIEF Investigator at the King County Medical Examiner's Office
(KCMEO), knows Mary Anderson well.
He has the scars to prove it.
"This thing's got endless value," he says, half in jest and half in frustration. I meet him one
Wednesday afternoon in early April. Webster is an affable man. He is thin and lanky, with
short gray hair and a salt-and-pepper mustache. He has a bounce in his step, and his keys
jangle noisily on his hip as he leads me down a narrow hallway in the basement of
Harborview Medical Center. The office of the King County Medical Examiner is windowless
and cramped and dark -- just as one would imagine it. There is an old couch, television set,
row of lockers and a computer. The place is somewhat cluttered, and Webster's office is no
exception. Webster, shortly after retiring from the Kirkland Police Department, became
bored and sought work that was both challenging and intriguing. "To be honest with you, it's
absolutely fascinating. I wish I didn't like this work because I'd like to just go home and
rest. But I'm excited about going to work every day. It's a pretty interesting thing because
you never know what your challenges are going to be on any given day." I take a seat
across from him and he opens the file on Mary Anderson: "Here's our girl."
Webster places several large 8" x 10" photographs on the table. I scrutinize them. It's the
first time I've actually seen Mary Anderson, and I'm overwhelmed by the lack of drama in
the photos. Mary Anderson is dressed in black leggings and a black top. The sheets on the
bed have been stripped and she is lying with her hands at her side. Her feet are bare and
her head is propped against a bank of dark pillows. Her reddish-brown hair is neatly
combed. Her face has been neatly applied with make-up. A Bible is opened upon her chest,
face down. Mary Anderson's eyes are closed and, if I were to give these photos to a
passerby on the street, he or she would most likely assume that they were photos of a
woman taking a nap.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued

"That's just exactly how she was found," Webster says. "The Bible was opened to the
Twenty-Third Psalm." After discovering her body, Webster ran an initial check of fingerprints
through several agencies -- Interpol, NCIC, AFIS, and the RCMP; he came up empty. He ran
a check for dental records; that, too, proved futile. Webster completed computer searches
and missing-persons checks; they came up empty. When Mary Anderson checked into the
Hotel Vintage Park, she paid cash for her room. She left an address of 132 East Third
Street, New York, NY 11103; the address does not exist. She left a phone number of (212)
569-5549; the phone number does not exist.
Webster was stumped.
"This looked like a very easy case to solve," Webster says. "We had the lady's name, we had
her address, we had the note, we had the cause of death. Basically it appeared, on the
surface -- at the beginning of the investigation -- that we had everything we needed in
order to solve this very quickly. If this had been correct information, we would have had this
solved within twenty minutes. And twenty minutes have now become a year-and-a-half."
Webster is not an inept or indifferent investigator. Still unidentified are twenty-five bodily
remains in King County since 1982; at any given moment, the city of Los Angeles has more
than 400. "We don't let go of them," Webster asserts. "You have to look at it from the
standpoint that these people have family members out there -- brothers or sisters or
mothers or fathers or husbands or wives or whatever -- and they have a right to know. You
would hate to go through life thinking, 'I haven't seen my brother since 1982. Where the
hell is he? Is he alive? Is he dead?' The family has a right to have that settled for them.
That's why we work [these cases] so hard." Nor is Webster a rookie investigator. In the past
year alone, he has investigated everything from Native American remains to the dead body
of a full-term infant discovered in a restroom trash container.
On Sunday, July 27, 1997, fishermen in the clear waters of the Snoqualmie River discovered
dozens of human bones -- including an intact skull, arm and leg bones, several teeth, lower
jaws, and parts of at least four skulls -- belonging to ten people. Police divers found a
burlap potato sack on the river bottom and an anthropological examination revealed that
the bones were dumped in the river only days before the fishermen discovered them.
Webster, along with Forensic Anthropologist Kathy Taylor, learned that the bones were at
least two hundred years old and were the remains of at least one juvenile. Webster believes


the bones were part of a private collection, in that at least three bones had been varnished
or covered with shellac.
On November 20, 1997, a female employee of a Lake City Way Chevron convenience store
discovered the dead body of a full-term infant in a restroom trash container. Webster
investigated the incident and determined that the baby boy (nicknamed "Baby Boy Doe")
had been born alive -- healthy and uninjured -- two days before. A review of the store's
security cameras revealed a young, dark-haired woman entering the restroom on November
18th, and it is believed that the unidentified woman was the baby's mother. "This one just
kind of pulled at everybody's heartstrings," Webster comments, reflecting on the incident.
The Seattle Police Department and the KCMEO hosted a burial service, the Archdiocese of
Seattle donated a gravesite, the Associated Catholic Cemeteries donated clothes and a
teddy bear, and Flintoft's Issaquah Funeral Home donated a small casket. Webster, referring
to the donations, remarks, "It just seemed like the right thing to do for the little guy."
On Saturday, July 6, 1996, Sammiejo White, 11, and her sister, Carmen Joy Cubias, 9, left
the Crest Motel at North 141st Street and Aurora Avenue North, to buy cigarettes for an
older brother. On Tuesday, February 10, 1998, the girls' remains were found buried in a field
on an abandoned farm in Bothell. A transient living in the barn discovered the remains.
Webster interviewed the girls' mother, Margaret Bernice Delaney, for more than two hours.
Delaney told Webster that the girls were "independent," and the family often traveled by
bus; the girls were very familiar with the bus system. Delaney and her daughters arrived in
Seattle from the Tri-Cities area in 1995 -- the year that Delaney gave birth to her ninth
child. "Neither girl had money," Delaney told Webster. "But they knew how to panhandle."
The family paid for the one-bedroom motel room with donations from a local charity.
Webster concluded that the girls were victims of "homicidal violence" and, with the help of
Forensic Anthropologist Taylor, it was determined that the girls died shortly after they
disappeared. "The death certificate was signed, after we made the identification, as 'a
homicidal violence of undetermined etiology.' The reason we were able to say it was a
homicidal death was because we had nothing but bone fragments, and no other logical
conclusion could be drawn. But nine- and thirteen-year-old girls do not die and then bury
their own bodies."
On Monday, February 23, 1998, Jason Henrickson was digging a garden in the backyard of
his girlfriend's University District home when he found a human skull. "I didn't believe it at
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued

first," Henrickson reported. "It looked like a gourd. I hit it with a pickax in the face and the
skull came rolling out, leaving a big hole in the dirt. I thought for sure it was a murder
victim." Webster's team investigated the find and concluded that the sizes and shapes of the
bones indicated that a man, woman and child were buried at the site, possibly around the
turn of the century.
Mary Anderson's case seems simple compared to some of the others Webster has handled.
Hers seems a basic case of suicide, yet it continues to baffle Webster. When the checks on
fingerprints, dental records, and missing-persons rosters came up empty, Webster began to
scramble. "We checked taxi companies, the YWCA, area restaurants, and Nordstrom. We
checked manufacturers of the clothing that we could identify, which included one in Canada,
and several in the United States." When the autopsy was performed, examiners removed a
copper intrauterine device from Mary Anderson's corpse. "We explored the part number of
the IUD. It came back. We found out it's been sold thousands and thousands of times all
over the continent. So that led nowhere. We even [tried to identify the] chemical
composition [of the cyanide] so that we could go back to some of the scientific supply
houses and see if they could identify it by a batch number. If they could identify it by a
batch number, then they could tell us what area it was sold in. Then we could focus on that
particular area. If we could have found out that this was a chemical that was only sold in,
say, New Jersey, then we [would have had] a place to focus our investigation. But there
were no records or anything like that."
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

ethnicity. Other than we know she's Caucasian and she's probably European. Just like you
and me, is about what it boils down to." Webster scans more leads -- one from a psychic in
College Place, Washington ("The name came to me in a vision."). Another lead pointed to a
woman who had had a hysterectomy; Mary Anderson had not. "This was a good one,"
Webster says, pulling a sheet from the file.
"Everything was in place on this [lead], but this woman was seen alive after [Mary Anderson
died]." A man in California, recalling a classmate at Encinal Junior High School who
resembled Mary Anderson, sent a choir photo from a 1962 yearbook to compare with the
photos of Mary Anderson's corpse. A man living in Alaska contacted Webster and reported
that he recalled a Mary Anderson who lived in Hillsboro, Oregon, during the 1950s. A
Seattle-area antique collector contacted Webster to report that he recalled seeing a woman
who resembled Mary Anderson working at an area flea market or antiques store. All leads
were pursued and, unfortunately, zero closure was placed on the Mary Anderson case.
"We have worked an endless number of hours on this case," Webster tells me, rubbing his
eyes. "We've gone down different paths of investigative techniques and they have all led
nowhere. That's basically the long and short of Mary Anderson. After an intense
investigation, we have no idea who this lady is."
If you want to know the whos and whats and whens and wheres of Mary Anderson, it's
really quite simple. No matter how deeply you dig, how far you research, how hard you
attempt to re-trace her steps, your search will likely leave you frustrated and fascinated.
You will soon discover that the facts and clues and tips surrounding Mary Anderson's identity
are both everywhere and nowhere.
Why did she leave a Bible open on her chest? Simple: she was religious. But committing
suicide seems sacrilegious. Moreover, most religious dogma forbids the self-slain body to
rest in peace.
Why did she kill herself in Room 214 at the Hotel Vintage Park? Simple: she had been in
that room before. But investigators concluded that the room was picked at random; Mary
Anderson made no reservations and the hotel staff picked the room.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued

Why did she ingest cyanide? Simple: it is one of the quickest and most painless ways to die.
The victim is dead in a matter of seconds, the result of sudden cardiac arrest. But cyanide is
also an extremely difficult substance to obtain. It isn't sold over-the-counter and to obtain it
one would have to work at either a chemical laboratory or a mining supply company. Even
then, detailed records are kept when the chemical is issued.
After researching Mary Anderson's case for several months, I had a gut feeling that Mary
Anderson intended to baffle those who would find her body. Everything about her is false --
her address and phone number are non-existent. Her name is phony. And any identification
that isn't false simply does not exist.
The woman appears rootless.
"I have the distinct feeling that she left a clue in that room and we missed it," Webster
explains. "There may have been something there that, if it would have been maybe
understood or identified, that there may have been some sort of a clue there that might
have helped us. But we didn't find anything." Webster pauses a moment. His gaze trails. He
continues, slowly, "There was...one thing...that did concern me. It seems like there was a
copy of either the Seattle Weekly or The Stranger there and it was open and there were
three maple leaves on a page. I don't know what page it was open to. And we didn't do
anything other than observe it. Not that it's to say that there may have been something
there. It's just that...when an investigation goes on this long, you start really drilling down
to try and find the most obvious things."
Ironically, renowned Forensic Anthropologist William R. Maples, in his book Dead Men Do
Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist, observes that
suicides such as Mary Anderson's are commonplace. "There is a...type of suicide," Dr.
Maples writes, "which may be called the fastidious suicide, involving a person who wishes to
look beautiful in death, to die tidily, or to cause as little trouble as possible to the
investigators afterward. Women will often put on a pretty nightgown and apply makeup
before killing themselves. Many of the skeletons that come to my laboratory belong to
suicide victims who behaved like shy hermits in their final hours. Usually they are found in
remote, out-of-the-way places. People often go to some hidden place to kill themselves,
whether from a desire to act alone and unhindered, or because they wish simply to
disappear in solitude, spending their last moments in reflective silence."


The only way I knew to acquaint myself with Mary Anderson was to visit key places she had
been. I had to retrace her steps. The catch, though, was that I could only think of two
places she had been: Room 214 at Hotel Vintage Park -- where she lived for a day before
taking her life; and Crown Hill Cemetery -- where she is buried.
I assessed my situation. Jerry Webster and his team of investigators had pursued nearly
200 leads, conducted record checks in the United States and Canada, and pleaded their
case on national television. As Webster explained to me, "There have been a horrendous
number of hours put into this thing...ut we can't say the one thing we need to know --
who the hell is she?" Webster had the financial backing and investigative resources of the
county. I had a Pearlcorder, a note pad, some pens, and very little experience in
investigation. My situation was not promising. I basically wanted to know as much as I could
about a woman who was very mysterious and very dead.
I decided to pay a visit to the Hotel Vintage Park -- a historic locale in downtown Seattle. In
the late-1920s, the McNaught Mansion -- the home of prominent Seattle attorney James
McNaught, constructed in 1883 and later moved across the street in 1904 to make way for
the public library -- was razed for construction of the Kennedy Hotel and its ground-floor
restaurant, The Gold Coin, which was a popular hangout for stockbrokers. In January 1992
San Francisco hotel magnate Bill Kimpton purchased the ten-story Kennedy Hotel for $7
million. Kimpton owned a chain of hotels in Seattle (Alexis Hotel), Portland (Hotel Vintage
Plaza, Fifth Avenue Suites,) San Francisco (Hotel Monaco, Prescott Hotel), and Los Angeles
(Beverly Prescott Hotel). The Kennedy Hotel's building delighted Kimpton. He commented,
" love the character of the...building. look for downtown historic-type hotels, then
renovate them to bring back the old glory." The Kennedy Hotel shut down, and the building
was gutted, renovated, and transformed into the Hotel Vintage Park. In August 1992 the
Hotel Vintage Park opened to much fanfare. A Seattle Times reporter commented, "The wine
flowed faster than the spring runoff at Wednesday night's grand opening reception for the
Hotel Vintage Park." Each of the Hotel's 126 rooms were named after Washington vineyards
and wineries. The Hotel's grand suite -- a sprawling room with a wood-burning fireplace,
tiled spa bath, draped canopy bed, surround-sound stereo and multiple jet shower -- was
named after Washington State's eponymous Chateau Ste. Michelle. Celebrities soon
frequented the Hotel and its ground-floor restaurant, Tulio's. One Times columnist cooed,
"Actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were in town, staying in the Chateau St.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued


Michelle suite at the Hotel Vintage Park. [They] hosted a party for six friends at Tulio's [and]
asked for their favorite table."
As far as the Hotel Vintage Park is concerned, Mary Anderson never checked into Room 214.
The Hotel, it seems, is in serious denial. "We went through some problems with the Hotel,"
Webster had told me earlier. "They did not want the name of the hotel published. We never
identified it as the Hotel Vintage Park, but anyone who can read an address can find that
out. [And the address] is a matter of public record." Webster didn't think the Hotel was
being unreasonable. He understood why they would want to keep Mary Anderson and the
history of Room 214 under wraps. "Nobody would want that kind of publicity," he added.
"It's a commercial venture and you certainly don't want to have that kind of information
[public]. For instance, if you had a friend in your house who committed suicide, I don't think
you'd want that to show up in the Seattle Times." Mary Anderson's death was not the first
to occur in that building, either. On August 14, 1990, a sixteen-year-old girl, staying at the
Kennedy Hotel with her parents, fell to her death from the tenth floor.
One Saturday afternoon in May, I entered the Hotel Vintage Park. The lobby was filled with
well-dressed tourists lounging on couches and waiting for their tables at Tulio's. I rode the
elevator up to the second floor, and stepped into a narrow alcove lined with brass accents
and tall mirrors. I followed a hallway down to Room 214, which, rather spookily, was the
last suite before the fire exit. I stood outside the door, staring at the suite's door and, more
importantly, imagining what was beyond that door. I wondered if Mary Anderson had passed
anyone in the hallway, en route to her suite. Did they acknowledge her? Did they find her to
be peculiar? Did she request assistance with her bags and, if so, did the bellhop strike up a
pointless conversation about the weather?
I placed my hand on the door, running it along the smooth wood. I stared back down the
hallway, toward the elevator. The hallway was beautiful and carpeted and lined with
flowered wallpaper. I placed my hand on the door handle and applied a little pressure.
The door was locked.
I stepped back, staring at the door. Mary Anderson was dogging me. The door to the hotel
suite where she spent the last days of her life was locked. I was not allowed access. Later,
in an e-mail message to Webster at the KCMEO, I described my visit to Room 214. Webster


replied, "I am glad to hear that you did not get into Room 214. Do you realize that it would
be Burglary? I guess you would have plenty of time to write if you were sitting in a jail cell!
If you do get in the room, say Hi to Mary for me and see if you can get her address and
phone number by chance."
Shortly after my visit to Room 214, I contacted the Hotel's General Manager, Sam Johnson,
via e-mail and posed a few questions...
Dear Mr. Johnson,
I am a freelance journalist presently writing an article about the October 9, 1996, suicide of
"Mary Anderson" in Room 214 at the Hotel Vintage Park. I am hoping that you could take
the time to answer a few questions regarding Ms. Anderson's death:
Do you think Ms. Anderson picked the Hotel Vintage Park for a specific reason, or do you
think the Hotel was chosen at random?
Are there similar cases of mysterious deaths or suicides at the Hotel Vintage Park?
Do you have any ideas or theories as to the identity of Ms. Anderson?
Thank you for taking the time to consider my questions and I look forward to hearing from
you in the near future.
Sincerely,
Todd Matthews
Manager Johnson never responded to my queries, and the Hotel never commented to me
about this case.
I DON’T ENVY any new investigator joining Webster's team.
It isn't because of the work. My impression is that investigators who work day-in and dayout
at the KCMEO don't perceive corpses as spooky or repulsive. After awhile, the bodies
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued

and blood simply become a four-letter word: Work. And to listen to Webster talk about his
work and the number of hours he puts in (he works an average of sixty-five hours per
week), the exhaustion is palpable -- in his scratchy voice and the way he repeatedly
removes his glasses to rub his tired eyes. Yet he finds excitement working as Chief
Investigator at the KCMEO. One evening I arrived at his office around 6:30 p.m. He was
preparing a slide presentation and lecture for a group of nursing students. His day had
started at 4:00 a.m., and before the presentation was done, it would approach 9:30 p.m.
Nor don't I envy any new KCMEO investigator because of their supervisor's character. Quite
the contrary. Webster is an affable, friendly man. He's a compassionate man who is known
to volunteer time with AIDS victims, in the last stages of the disease, who contact him
requesting help on how to get their affairs in order before they pass away. Simply put,
Webster both excels at and loves his job. He could easily live on his police pension alone,
but he's addicted to the challenges inherent in investigative work. "My job in many ways,"
Webster comments, "is to serve the living through the dead."
So, why don't I envy any new investigator joining Webster's team? Simple: Carkeek Park.
"Many new investigator that starts here gets this book," Webster explains. He pulls a white,
three-ring binder from a nearby bookshelf and places it on his desk. "This is basically the
kid that lives next door to you. You know he's there, but you never paid any attention to
him."
The 'kid' Webster is talking about is an unidentified young man -- approximately 18 to 26
years old -- who was found hanging from a tree in Carkeek Park. The photographs are
graphic. The young man -- roughly 5' 11" and weighing approximately 180 pounds -- is
wearing a black leather jacket with a fur collar, a light purple pullover with red stripes, old
blue jeans, and sneakers. He has black hair and an olive complexion, and his body hangs at
least ten feet in the air. The angle of the photograph is eerie. Sunlight creeps through the
tree's leaves, and the thick nylon rope wraps around the young man's neck like a giant,
calloused fist.
"This is the case that I started on in 1991," Webster comments, referring to his days as a
rookie investigator working under the direction of then-Chief Investigator Bill Haglund.
Though the young man's body was found on October 9, 1984, his identity remains a
mystery. "I always felt, and I still feel, that this case could be solved. Basically I went back
and I pulled all the records that I could. And then I took all the investigative files they had



and blood simply become a four-letter word: Work. And to listen to Webster talk about his
work and the number of hours he puts in (he works an average of sixty-five hours per
week), the exhaustion is palpable -- in his scratchy voice and the way he repeatedly
removes his glasses to rub his tired eyes. Yet he finds excitement working as Chief
Investigator at the KCMEO. One evening I arrived at his office around 6:30 p.m. He was
preparing a slide presentation and lecture for a group of nursing students. His day had
started at 4:00 a.m., and before the presentation was done, it would approach 9:30 p.m.
Nor don't I envy any new KCMEO investigator because of their supervisor's character. Quite
the contrary. Webster is an affable, friendly man. He's a compassionate man who is known
to volunteer time with AIDS victims, in the last stages of the disease, who contact him
requesting help on how to get their affairs in order before they pass away. Simply put,
Webster both excels at and loves his job. He could easily live on his police pension alone,
but he's addicted to the challenges inherent in investigative work. "My job in many ways,"
Webster comments, "is to serve the living through the dead."
So, why don't I envy any new investigator joining Webster's team? Simple: Carkeek Park.
"Many new investigator that starts here gets this book," Webster explains. He pulls a white,
three-ring binder from a nearby bookshelf and places it on his desk. "This is basically the
kid that lives next door to you. You know he's there, but you never paid any attention to
him."
The 'kid' Webster is talking about is an unidentified young man -- approximately 18 to 26
years old -- who was found hanging from a tree in Carkeek Park. The photographs are
graphic. The young man -- roughly 5' 11" and weighing approximately 180 pounds -- is
wearing a black leather jacket with a fur collar, a light purple pullover with red stripes, old
blue jeans, and sneakers. He has black hair and an olive complexion, and his body hangs at
least ten feet in the air. The angle of the photograph is eerie. Sunlight creeps through the
tree's leaves, and the thick nylon rope wraps around the young man's neck like a giant,
calloused fist.
"This is the case that I started on in 1991," Webster comments, referring to his days as a
rookie investigator working under the direction of then-Chief Investigator Bill Haglund.
Though the young man's body was found on October 9, 1984, his identity remains a
mystery. "I always felt, and I still feel, that this case could be solved. Basically I went back
and I pulled all the records that I could. And then I took all the investigative files they had
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued

In early April 1993, thirty-five-year-old Nicholas Hoerner was killed by a Burlington Northern
freight train as he walked on tracks north of Carkeek Park. In a similar incident, a thirtyyear-
old man named Timothy Benson told a friend he was "having problems" and, a short
time later, committed suicide by stepping in front of a moving Burlington Northern freight
train on railroad tracks a half-mile north of Carkeek Park.
When investigators began looking into the 1984 hanging of the young man in Carkeek Park,
they walked away mystified. "I went back," Webster continues, flipping through the photos
and paperwork on the Carkeek Park case, "and went through the medical on him. You know,
for instance, you can see some interesting things [in the photos]. Do you see some
interesting things?"
"Well, I'm not an expert," I reply, studying the autopsy photos. The young man is laying on
a tray in the autopsy room. His head is turned to the side, his muscles having stiffened from
being dead for several hours. "Are these bruises around his ankles?"
"Well, not so much," Webster replies, correcting me. "A lot of this is darkening color as a
result of him hanging in suspension. There are two things here -- actually three things here
-- that are very, very obvious that nobody ever saw before that has significance."
I study the photos a bit longer. I'm stumped.
"Look at the color of the arms," Webster says, pointing at the young man's tanned arms.
Curiously enough, one arm is darker than the other arm. "Solar tanning. This is what you'd
expect to see. This arm darker than that arm because the guy probably drove with his arm
out the window. Don't know what the hell it means. And what's this?"
"A tan line," I answer. An untanned stripe marks the young man's left wrist. "He had a
watch on at some point."
"But there was no watch," Webster replies, clearly perplexed. These are all clues -- new
clues that investigators hadn't noticed in 1984 -- but they do nothing but convolute what
little is already known about the young man. "But he did wear a watch. The other thing is



he's clean -- fairly clean-shaven -- he's got less than a twenty-four-hour beard. And the
rope was brand-new, an over-the-counter type."
The Carkeek Park case is a mystery in the truest sense of the word. Investigators believed
the young man lived near the Park, because he was fairly well kempt and hung himself with
a rope that could have been purchased at several stores near the area.
The similarities between the Hotel Vintage Park case and the Carkeek Park case are eerie.
The young man hung himself on October 9, 1984 -- exactly twelve years from the day that
Mary Anderson checked into Room 214 at the Hotel Vintage Park. Both appeared to be cutand-
dried suicide cases requiring no more than a few minutes of investigation: run some
fingerprints, check for ID, and contact the families. Case closed. In the case of Carkeek
Park, a few minutes has turned into thirteen years.
"These kinds of things eat on me," Webster says. He gestures to the Carkeek Park file.
"Every time I look at this thing, something new shows up on it. And what I do is, I'll assign
this to some new investigator. I'll give him or her the two pages of the case report and say,
'Go for it. Find out who this kid is.'"
MARY ANDERSON’S SUICIDE may be one of life's great mysteries, but when her corpse was
brought to the KCMEO on October 11, 1996, it was business as usual. King County has a
Medical Examiner's system, which is an unbiased arm of the County Health Department.
"We are not elected officials," Webster says. "The coroner is an elected official that may be
subjected to pressure, whereas our office is totally independent. We don't represent law
enforcement. We don't represent the prosecutors. We don't represent the families or the
attorneys. We represent the dead person lying on the floor." A Chief Medical Examiner who
is also a Board Certified Forensic Pathologist administers the KCMEO. Dr. Donald Reay, the
Chief Medical Examiner at the KCMEO, is one of the top Forensic Pathologists in the United
States. Dr. Reay is internationally renowned for several specialties: asphyxial death
(hangings) and positional asphyxia (police restraint). As a result, Dr. Reay often testifies in
death penalty cases that involve hanging. When Wesley Allen Dodd and Charles Campbell
were sentenced to a hanging death at Walla Walla State Penitentiary, Dr. Reay was
consulted because of his expertise. Dr. Reay was also the Chief Medical Examiner when the
autopsies were performed on the thirteen victims of the 1983 Wah Mee Massacre in
Seattle's Chinatown. Moreover, Dr. Reay has consulted on several high-profile cases.
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued


Another valuable asset to the KCMEO team is Forensic Anthropologist Kathy Taylor. "I love
my job," Taylor explains. "Forensic anthropology is my passion. That's what I went to school
for all those many years to do. I could spend hours and hours and hours at a table with
bones, trying to figure out the mystery." Taylor earned her master's degree in forensics at
the University of Arizona, in Tucson, where she worked at the Human Identification Lab,
helping to investigate more than 100 cases per year. She started working at the KCMEO in
August 1996. Studying bones is the crux of Taylor's work, so much so that she has given
herself the nickname "Bones Person." She measures, sifts, sorts, and creates inventories of
bones discovered by Webster's investigators.
The KCMEO's two functions are to determine both the cause and manner of death -- these
may include accident, homicide, suicide, natural disease process, or "undetermined." King
County is the largest county in the state, and Webster has eleven investigators working
around the clock. An average working day sees approximately seventeen deaths reported to
the KCMEO. Of these, four will actually come into Webster's office; the others will be
classified as "No Jurisdiction Assumed," which include people who die in nursing homes and
health care facilities with extensive medical histories and a private physician willing to sign
the death certificate -- essentially, natural deaths.
"It's a pretty difficult place here, for the most part," Webster comments, describing the
nature of the work. "We don't ever go out at three o'clock in the morning and knock on
somebody's door to bring them good news. We don't go around telling them they won the
lottery. We give them some of the most crushing and most disturbing news they're probably
ever going to get in their life. That's hard on the families, obviously, but it's hard on us,
too."
Investigating deaths. conducting autopsies, informing people that their loved one has been
killed -- none of this seems glamorous, and one would think that Webster would be hardpressed
to put together a team of investigators. Yet, Webster has to turn applicants away.
Indeed, one evening I attended a lecture and slide-show Webster presented to a group of
nursing students, many of whom afterward queried him about what they should study to
work for him. "I am fortunate," Webster told the students, "because we live in a fairly
populated county. We have a lot of well-educated people with good backgrounds. Right now
I have a Ph.D. candidate as one of my investigators, and he has a degree in Forensic

Anthropology. That's a pretty upscale investigator. I require that my investigators have four
years of college in a health-related field, and have at least a year in some sort of
investigative background. I have the cream of the crop right now."
Indeed, the KCMEO's investigators and doctors comprise a sharp team. Their teamwork,
indeed familial closeness, results from the unique nature of their work and the long hours
they spend working each day.
"One of the ways we get through this is there's a lot of humor here," Webster admits. "We
get along well. We scream and yell and fight and do crazy things in here -- but never, ever
do we direct any comments or criticisms to the people who come through our office through
the back door. The reason being is that there's not a one of us here that may not be up in
the cooler in an hour. It could be you or your family or your children. We never lose sight of
that. One of the things I try to get through to these investigators here is that we are the
last people on the face of the earth who can speak for these dead people, so we better
damned well listen to what they have to tell us."
Webster and his team of investigators do a lot of "listening." In 1997 approximately 13,000
people died in King County; forty-nine percent of those deaths were investigated by the
KCMEO. Firearms are the "weapon of choice" in King County. They account for most of the
county's homicides and suicides. King County is unique, too, in that its 2,130 square-miles
feature an unusually diverse range of rural, urban, ethnic, social, and religious groups. In
addition, the area features an unusually diverse topography: saltwater lakes, freshwater
lakes, mountains, rivers, ponds, and puddles. All of this makes for a real "gift sampler" of
deaths that Webster and his team have investigated. In one breath, Webster tells the story
of a man who drowned in the shower; in the next breath, he relates a story about a small
religious group that only permitted the deceased's eldest brother to touch the corpse; this
eldest brother ultimately acted as Webster's hands. Webster also relates a fascinating story
about a small Southeast Asian tribe called the Hmong; every few years, a Hmong young
man, typically between nineteen and twenty-three years of age, is found dead in bed with
no anatomical or pathological cause of death. "This is only specific to the Hmong," Webster
comments. "What a study has shown is that these young men may have nightmares that
are so terrifying that they are scaring themselves to death in their sleep. Those are some of
the type of cases that come in here. Every morning when I come into the office, I say, 'I
think I've seen it all.' And then I see the four or five that came in the night before and I say,
 

Akoya

Well-known member
continued


'Well, I've seen it all except for these four or five.' I see some of the most fascinating things
that people will ever see in their entire lives."
Webster and his team have also had some personal close calls. Like the time one of his
investigators was kidnapped at gunpoint while trying to serve a death notice. Or the time
someone pulled a gun on Webster while he was trying to load a body into a van. "I was
working graveyard one New Year's Eve," he explains. "First call I get is one at Yesler and
Boren. A dead Cuban male -- his name was Jose -- lying on the middle of the floor. He had
been dead for about twelve hours. All of his buddies are sitting around the room -- all drunk
and raising hell. They think Jose is sound asleep. Well, Jose is not sound asleep -- he's stone
cold dead. The cops leave and I start to pick Jose up and put him on a stretcher, and one of
the guys says, 'You're not taking Jose!' He reaches under a mattress and pulls out an old,
hefty .38. Fortunately, the guy was so drunk that I was able to grab it from him."
While King County's population has steadily increased since 1983 (now reaching 1.6
million), the KCMEO's caseload has deviated little. "People are living longer," Webster
explains. "The numbers of different types of deaths have changed. In 1996 we had 216
suicides; last year we had 238. In 1996 we had 110 homicides; last year we only had 88.
So we have a shift there, and that shift is kind of interesting. It balanced them out again, so
that we basically come out with the same number of deaths." Another interesting note is
that ten years ago, there were approximately 450-500 traffic fatalities in King County; last
year there were barely 200. "Everybody collapses and says, 'God, this is just wonderful,'"
Webster observes. "'We've got seatbelt laws, we've got three-point restraint, we've got
airbags, we've got stiffer vehicles, we've got better-designed vehicles, we've got lower
speed limits, and we've got helmet laws.' The problem is, it is saving people's lives but the
people with devastating irreversible injuries are now in what we call persistive vegetative
states. They've got these devastating head injuries. They haven't had a thought. They've
been straightlined into an EEG. So that's kind of an interesting twist."
After awhile, Webster asks, "Do you want to look around upstairs?" The autopsy room and
coolers are located upstairs.
"Sure," I reply. We head upstairs. I follow him down narrow hallways and small flights of
stairs that weave and twist and turn deep within the basement of the Harborview Medical


Center. Webster used to give tours of the KCMEO facility to medical students, but too many
bodies came through his office with infectious diseases posing a health hazard.
The KCMEO's doctors and investigators don't start working when the bodies arrive at their
office. Rather, their investigation begins at the scene of the incident, and their investigation
is intense. All bases are covered, and measures are taken to ensure that the cause and
manner of death are precisely determined. Webster runs a tight ship, and he needs to. "Our
doctors and investigators take the case from the scene to the trial," Webster comments.
"They know it's going to have an impact on them." At the scene of the death, extensive
photographs are taken -- of the body and various points of concern. The hands are bagged,
the ankle tagged, and the contents of the pockets emptied and collected. The body is then
wrapped in a nylon bag and brought into the KCMEO office.
The floor of the receiving area is unpainted concrete, and the area has the look and feel of a
grocery store backroom. It was here, at this area, that Mary Anderson's corpse was first
marked and weighed when brought to the KCMEO.
"When the bodies are brought in," Webster says, pointing to a security monitor in the corner
of the room, "they are moved into the elevator and brought up here." The security monitor
depicts a circular driveway where the KCMEO vans unload bodies. It is in this area that the
body is weighed and identified. The corpse is numbered with a black felt marker,
fingerprinted, and logged. After the body is weighed and tagged, it is moved onto a "tray"
with wheels and moved into the autopsy room.
The autopsy room is sprawling and immaculate. On the afternoon of my visit, no autopsies
are being performed and the room feels vacant and spare. Positioned around the autopsy
room are workstations complete with stainless steel sinks, surgical instruments, and
miscellaneous tools. The autopsy room is heavily shadowed -- the lights have been turned
down. And the room is incredibly clean -- no weird stains or blood-soaked sheets. I can't
help but think that the autopsy room -- with all its stainless steel sinks and shiny surgical
tools -- looks not unlike the kitchen at Tim Burton's home. "The bodies are brought here,"
Webster says, standing a few feet from the center of the room. The corpses are
photographed just as they are brought in -- in most cases, fully clothed. Then the bodies
are stripped, cleaned, and photographed nude.
 

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