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Body found in Tenakee

Posted: Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Search and rescue teams found a body in Tenakee Springs today, but town and law-enforcement officials will not say if the remains are of a Juneau woman who went missing last week.

Teams of Tenakee residents have been searching since Friday for Margaret "Maggie" Wigen, 19, who last was seen walking with her dog on a trail leading into Tenakee around 3 p.m. Wednesday. The dog wandered into town Friday without Wigen.

One of the search teams found the body shortly before 10 a.m. today in a wooded area behind the Tenakee Springs School. Though officials would not confirm the body is Wigen, a Tenakee Fire Department staffer, who would not give her name, asked area media to "stop all broadcasts announcing the woman as missing."

Tenakee, population about 100, is about 50 miles southwest of Juneau. Wigen is a resident of Juneau but often stayed in Tenakee at the cabin of her mother, Karin Wigen, said David Ottoson, owner of Juneau's Rainbow Foods store, where the missing woman worked.

Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said crime-scene technicians and investigators are on their way to Tenakee but probably will not begin working at the scene until Wednesday morning. Wilkinson said troopers will not confirm the identity or details about the body until they have examined the area where the body was found.

Wilkinson declined comment on whether foul play is suspected. Before news of the body reached trooper offices, Wilkinson said troopers were treating the incident as a homicide investigation.

"We treat all situations like this as homicides until we know differently," he said. "That way we are not trying to collect evidence two months after the fact. We can do it closer to when the incident occurred."

Troopers, who began searching for Wigen on Friday, suspended the effort Sunday evening. Wilkinson said they did not have the staff to leave a trooper in Tenakee to continue the investigation and had done everything they could do. But local volunteers, including two of Wigen's friends from Juneau who chartered a plane to Tenakee to join the search, never stopped looking for her, said Tenakee Mayor Shelly Wilson.

Since Friday, volunteers have searched terrain that Wilson described as "in some parts mild in some parts incessant hell." She said Tenakee terrain includes mountains, hills, marshes, muskeg and areas of brush "so thick you can't see through it."

Melanie Plenda can be reached mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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