Murder on Vashon? Not here, authorities say

A persistent rumor that one or two execution-style murders have occurred on Vashon in the last couple of months is not true, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Capt. Patrick Butschli, who oversees the sheriff’s Southwest Precinct, which includes Vashon, said he knows of no suspicious deaths or suspected homicides on Vashon. After a query from a reporter, he also talked to the sergeant who oversees the department’s major crimes division and said he, too, knows of no suspicious deaths on the Island.

According to one rumor, a body turned up in the Dumpster outside of La Playa, a restaurant next to the north-end ferry dock.

“I would absolutely know about that, if it had happened,” Butschli said. “We’d have to get an ME (medical examiner) over there. Everybody would know about it.”

Sgt. Cindi West, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said she, too, has heard nothing about murders on Vashon.

“That would be criminal to try to hide something like that,” she said. “If something bad were to happen, we wouldn’t try to hide it. We don’t work that way.”

Concern that one or more murders have occurred on Vashon and that authorities suppressed  information about the deaths has been circulating the Island for months. Those concerns seemed to reach a new level in recent weeks, when Ken Maaz, the director of Vashon Youth & Family Services, heard about the allegations from a highly regarded Islander and decided he needed to have his staff look into the reports.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” he said when reached Friday. “But I don’t want to completely discount it.”

A reporter called him later on Friday to tell him authorities said there was nothing to the rumors. Maaz expressed relief, adding that his instinct was to believe the sheriff’s office.

“I can’t imagine they’d outright lie,” he said. “I’d be willing to take them at their word.”

Islanders who work at the waterfront building that houses La Playa, meanwhile, said they found the suggestion of a body in the Dumpster ludicrous. Dale Cunningham, who works at Law Seminars International, above La Playa, pointed to the Dumpster — situated next to the driveway in front of the building — and laughed at the suggestion that a body could have ended up there without lots of people knowing about it.

“It’s just ridiculous. It’s not true,” she said.

Some of the concern about the sheriff’s office and allegations it was not investigating suspicious deaths on Vashon started last fall, when a much-loved man — a volunteer at the Vashon Maury Community Food Bank — was found dead in his yard. According to West, authorities believe his death was a suicide and are not actively investigating it. (The Beachcomber does not normally report the names of people who commit suicide.)

West said the Medical Examiner’s Office has not released a final report on the man’s death because it’s still awaiting a final ballistics report. Such a report would verify, among other things, that the bullet in the body was from the gun found next to him, she said.

“According to them (the medical examiner), it’s a suicide. But they’ve not issued the final report because they want every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed,” she said.

Both West and Butschli said Islanders who have information about any suspicious deaths on Vashon are urged to call 911 and make a report. Sometimes, when people go missing, authorities are not notified, they said.

“If anybody knows something, call our detectives. If they know where the bodies are, let us know,” West said.


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