Sitka businessman Bob Meyer, facing trial for allegedly murdering his wife and daughter, was found dead Tuesday night. An apparent suicide, his body was discovered at the end of a Sitka dock in 70 feet of water.
Meyer, 52, was scheduled for trial in January on charges he killed his wife and daughter and burned the family boat in June 1996. Meyer was wheelchair-bound, paralyzed from the neck down by a car accident in Seattle 14 months after the women disappeared.
On Tuesday evening, Sitka police got a call from Meyer's business, Southeast Marine, reporting he was missing. According to Sitka Detective Teague Widmier, searchers discovered small tire tracks heading out a dock, with scratch marks at the end. No corresponding footprints were found.
Divers found Meyer's body in the water below.
``He was still strapped into his wheelchair,'' Widmier said. He said no suicide note has been found and the body would be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy, but the working assumption is that Meyer killed himself.
``So far (that) is what we're pretty sure it looks like, is suicide,'' Widmier said. According to Widmier, investigators have talked with Meyer's friends and employees who told them suicide had been on his mind.
``It sounded like he was depressed. He'd go on strolls by himself quite often,'' Widmier said. ``He'd been talking about doing harm to himself.''
Meyer was indicted for the murders last March, 21 months after the disappearance and presumed deaths of his wife, 49-year-old Dianne Meyer, and their daughter, 17-year-old Christine.
Meyer's 48-foot-long power boat the Marjo burned and sank in Salisbury Sound, about 25 miles northwest of Sitka. Meyer told police the boat caught fire in the early morning hours of June 4. He said the two women went to the stern of the boat after the fire started, but had vanished when he came back from rescuing the family dogs from inside the boat.
Meyer said he and the dogs got into a skiff that was tied to the Marjo and headed back to Sitka after an unsuccessful search for his wife and daughter. By the time the Coast Guard reached the scene the Marjo was completely engulfed in flames.
Using remote-controlled submersibles, investigators found the Marjo months later in more than 500 feet of water, and parts of the boat were recovered. That and other evidence helped prosecutors piece together a strong case against Meyer, District Attorney Richard Svobodny said this morning in Sitka.
``I believe he would have been convicted, once a jury heard all the evidence,'' Svobodny said.
While Meyer's death Tuesday saves the effort of a court trial, Svobodny said it robs Sitka residents of an opportunity to witness the trial and make their own decisions about what happened to Meyer's family.
``I think that would be helpful for the Sitka community so people could hear the testimony and know what the evidence was,'' he said.
Meyer's new wife, Ann L. Lowe, still faces charges that she tampered with evidence in the murder case and Svobodny said her trial will probably still go forward.
``We'll have to review that but I don't think that it changes any of the evidence against her,'' he said.