Juneau woman found in Tenakee grave

Family believes 19-year-old was murdered

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Though officials will not confirm the identity of a body found partially buried in the Tenakee Springs woods Tuesday, friends and family of a 19-year-old Juneau woman who disappeared March 26 say it is her body and she was murdered.

After five days of searching, volunteer rescue teams found a body around 10 a.m. Tuesday, partially buried in a shallow grave in the woods behind the Tenakee Springs School. They believe it is Maggie Wigen, who split her time between Juneau and Tenakee, residents said. Tenakee is about 50 miles southwest of Juneau and has a population of around 100.

Troopers said they are not releasing any information about the body until they finish going over the area where it was found. Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said the body may be flown out of Tenakee tonight and a positive ID could be released Thursday.

At least five independent sources have confirmed it is Wigen.

"This is Tenakee. There aren't just random dead bodies floating around out there," said a resident who was part of the search for Wigen and asked to remain anonymous. "It's her. There's no question."

According to several Tenakee residents, no one has been allowed near the area where the body was found, and so they could not speculate on a cause of death.

Wilkinson declined to comment on the cause of death or details of the case, which is being investigated as a homicide.

Crime-scene technicians and investigators arrived at 10 a.m. today and were expected to look for clues near the body first, Wilkinson said. He said they were not expected to examine the body until late afternoon.

Wigen was last seen walking with her dog around 3 p.m. March 26 on the trail into Tenakee, a roadless town built on a long, thin stretch of land between Tenakee Inlet and a series of hills and mountains. She was reported missing Friday when her dog wandered into town alone. Residents began a search and troopers started a formal search Saturday morning, calling in Sitka Search and Rescue and the Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search. Troopers suspended their search Sunday evening, but local volunteers, including Wigen's mother Karin Wigen and two friends from Juneau, continued near-round-the-clock searches.

The body was found about 100 feet off the trail where Wigen was seen walking and about 50 feet from her mother's cabin, where she was staying, sources said.

"When I heard they found a body, there was just a mixture of emotions," said the searcher who didn't want to be identified. "You're relieved that there's resolve, but then you're upset that a body's been found and the person is obviously dead. And then there's just all kinds of questions like 'We had dogs out here? We had troopers out here? Why didn't we find her sooner?' "

Sue Gullufsen, a friend of Wigen's mother, spoke with her about 30 minutes before the body was found.

"At times she was very strong with periods of intense anxiety and sadness," said Gullufsen. "They were very close - kind of like soulmates really."

While authorities won't confirm Wigen was murdered, the incident has some residents nervous.

"We're in shock and grieving and yes, we're scared," said resident Barbara Scanlan. "You know we're a community where everybody knows everybody and no one locks their doors. Well, there's been talk of locking them now and I guess you really just never know anybody the way you think you do."

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