The search for a missing Vashon woman ended tragically when she was found dead on Saturday.
The body of India Castle, 27, was found in a pond in a wooded area near the Vashon Airport. The King County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, and a cause of death has not yet been determined.
“Because of the age and circumstance of being found in the woods, we’ll investigate this to its fullest,” said Cindi West, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department.
West said Castle’s family reported her missing on Friday evening. She was last seen on Tuesday night at a home on 109th Avenue, near the Vashon Airport on Cove Road. George Brown, assistant chief of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR), said Castle was thought to have left the house that evening to walk to her own home, which was also near the airport.
The sheriff’s office immediately organized a search and rescue operation on Friday, and a helicopter searched for Castle overnight.
On Saturday, search and rescue volunteers from King, Kitsap, Pierce and Thurston counties searched the area on foot, along with volunteers from VIFR and Vashon’s Community Emergency Response Team. Brown said there were 75 to 100 people searching for Castle, including three horse teams and two dog teams.
“It’s impressive the amount of people thrown together in that amount of time,” he said.
Castle’s body was discovered at about 1 p.m. on Saturday in a shallow pond about 1,000 feet behind the house where she was last seen, Brown said. West said there were no obvious signs of trauma, and it would take several days or longer for investigators to determine how she died.
On Sunday, West said that because of Castle’s age and the circumstances of her death, the sheriff’s office was treating the case as a criminal investigation, although so far it had no evidence that suggested a crime was committed.
Islanders followed the unfolding tragedy over the weekend on Facebook, where many posted alerts about Castle’s disappearance and then condolences after the sad news was made public.
Castle, the daughter of Islanders Carter and Debra Castle, was a 2003 graduate of Vashon High School and has been involved in theater productions and aerial arts on Vashon. Her family said she was near completion of her degree at The Evergreen State College. Carter Castle is a musician who is well known on the Island.
The Castle family also suffered a tragedy in 2004, when India’s younger brother, Dan Castle, died in a car accident on Bank Road. He was 17 years old.
Some who live near the home where Castle was last seen say it is a known drug house. They spoke to The Beachcomber about the house and the problems they believe surround it for an article in the Aug. 1 issue of the paper that focused on another suspected drug house.
West, however, said she had no knowledge of the home being a drug house and that little information was available this early in the investigation.
The Beachcomber reached a friend of Carter and Debra Castle, who said the couple had chosen to not give a statement at that time.
Update, Tuesday, Nov. 20:
The King County Medical Examiner's Office has not determined a cause of death for India Castle. A public hotline said on Tuesday that “the cause of death is pending toxicology.”
A spokesman for the office, Jonathan Gallar, said that medical investigators have not yet ruled out any cause of death and are waiting on results of a blood test.
Dep. Charlie Akers, a spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office, said the office was still investigating Castle's death, but so far had no evidence that a crime was committed.
“At this point we have not been given any information of any injuries that would make us suspect foul play,” he said.
Results of a toxicology report can take several weeks, he said.
Community members have organized a vigil in honor of Castle and her family at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Village Green.
Vashon Allied Arts has set up a fund to benefit Castle's family. Donations can be made at any US Bank to the India Castle Family Benefit Fund. Or drop off a check at the VAA offices at the Blue Heron.
Check the Beachcomber website for more information as it becomes available.