Body found in channel

Cause of woman's death unknown

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2001

Officials are saying little about their investigation into the death of an unidentified woman whose body was found floating in Gastineau Channel near Marine Park on Sunday morning.

An autopsy was planned for the remains of the woman, described by onlookers as about 35 to 45 years old and short. A witness to the recovery of the body by raft, Jason Layton, said the woman was wearing jeans and a dark shirt, and had long, black hair.

"She was missing her left shoe," Layton, a Thane resident, said this morning.

Juneau police received a report of the body in the water near the downtown parking garage at 7:45 a.m. Sunday. Capital City Fire & Rescue responded about 7:51 a.m., and police remained in the area looking for clues until after 10 a.m., local business owners said.

The area is close to many downtown bars, which close at 3 a.m. on weekends, and a protected area of shoreline used by some homeless people.

"JPD was handling that whole scene," said Capt. Pete Hettinger of the downtown fire station. "We were standing by to see if they wanted us to do anything. All we did was verify that the person was lifeless."

The State Medical Examiner's office in Anchorage was notified, and an autopsy was authorized. Sgt. Kevin Siska of JPD's Investigations Unit said he hopes to have the results of the autopsy some time today, "but there are two ahead of us." Examiner Franc Fallico could not be reached before the Empire's midday deadline.

Asked if there were any signs of violence to the body, Siska declined to comment. He said he did not know how long the body had been in the water. He also said no women currently are reported missing in the Juneau area.

Brenda Knapp, executive director of the Juneau Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said staff had no reason to believe the woman was anyone they worked with, "but we are going to be very alert to see if anyone fitting the description is missing from our program.

"There are still a number of people who camp out under that dock area," she said. "If they are partying and fall in, or bang their head and drown, no one would know."

Capt. Tom Porter of JPD would not comment this morning about whether foul play was involved, or whether there were any leads or suspects in the case.

"Obviously we want to see what toxicology is going to give us," he said.

Toxicology results - testing for alcohol, drugs and other substances that is conducted during the autopsy - often take two weeks to come back.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.

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