A Facebook post Friday, attributed to five members of the family of local actress Misty Upham, says they think her death was accidental.
“She did not commit suicide,” the post said. “We believe she ran into the wooded area behind her apartment to hide from the police.”
The post said the area has a hidden dropoff and it appears she didn’t see it, and slipped and fell off a steep embankment.
“I, Charles, went there after Fire Department officials recovered her body and you just can’t see the steep drop until it’s too late,” the post said, referring to Misty Upham’s father, Charles Upham.
Misty Upham, 32, was reported missing by her parents Oct. 6. Her body was found at the bottom of the 150-foot embankment in Auburn near the White River on Oct. 16, and the medical examiner has confirmed she had died Oct. 5. The cause of her death is still under investigation.
Upham’s family has said she struggled with mental illness most of her life and managed it well, until she moved to Washington this year to help care for her father, who had suffered a stroke. Her family said she wasn’t able to get the same medication after she moved, which caused her to slip into bouts of depression and panic attacks.
The Friday Facebook post said Upham had previously been picked up by Auburn police for an involuntary transport to the emergency room. It said family members, who were across the street, saw officers taunt and tease her after she was handcuffed and placed in a police car.
“They were tapping on the window making faces at her,” the post said.
According to Auburn police, Upham’s family called them on Oct. 5, reporting that she was at their home in south Auburn and suicidal. Upon arrival, officers were told that she had left. Police performed an area check but did not find her in the area, according to a statement.
The family expressed disappointment with Auburn police and Cmdr. Steve Stocker for not changing Upham’s missing status to “endangered,” to allow other agencies to get involved in the search.
On Oct. 10, Stocker said they did not consider Upham endangered; in order for a missing person to be listed as endangered, the disappearance must be considered unexplained, involuntary or suspicious.
“The real tragedy is this could have been prevented on a lot of levels,” the family’s Facebook post said.
The post thanked members of the Native American community for helping find Upham, while also expressing disappointment with the Auburn Police Department.
On its Facebook page, the department posted a statement Saturday saying officers took the family’s concerns seriously and followed all leads since the Oct. 6 report.
“We are saddened as many by her passing and grateful to the many family and friends that tried to help us,” the department wrote. “We also acknowledge that a family friend is the one that found her and called us. The case is still under investigation and anyone with information is requested to contact us.”
Cmdr. Stocker declined requests for additional comments.
Material from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.