Seattle police have confirmed they have an “active homicide investigation” into the death of a retired Seattle businessman whose body was found in the Columbia River last year.
Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said detectives have matched evidence from the missing-person case of Toshio Ota to the decomposed body discovered in the Columbia River by a fisherman on Aug. 23, 2012. The Grant County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday announced that the man died from a blow to the head.
Ota had been reported missing in 2011.
Whitcomb said detectives described Ota as a “retired Japanese businessman” but offered no details about the type of work he did. A Crimestoppers of Puget Sound missing-person posting described Ota as being “in good health, mentally and physically, with no explanation for his disappearance. It added that Ota “has been known to frequent Korean owned restaurants and bars in the Federal Way and Tacoma areas.”
Whitcomb said the case was reported to police on March 28, 2011, and that the last known contact that anyone had with Ota was on March 8. The case was initially assigned to the missing-person division, but Whitcomb said “they uncovered some facts that led them to believe Mr. Ota was the victim of a crime,” and the case was referred to the homicide division. Whitcomb declined to elaborate.
Seattle police learned of Grant County’s recovered body in November when a law-enforcement bulletin was published. Ota was identified as the victim in June, Whitcomb said.