A woman who had been hired in 2012 to help dig a drainage ditch at a home on Agate Street reported on February 3 to Kitsap County Sheriff’s detectives that, during the dig two years ago, she and her co-workers had come upon human remains.
KCSO Special Investigations Unit Detective Krista McDonald explained the two-year delay. McDonald had arrested the woman in 2014 on narcotics charges. At Thanksgiving, the woman again brought up with her family the fact that she had found human remains while on the drainage ditch job in 2012. This time, her mother took the account seriously and filed a report with the Bainbridge Island Police Department. When McDonald was completing her investigation of the woman, she came across the report.
McDonald said, “I’m a cop and I get curious.” So she visited the woman, who was still at the jail in Port Orchard waiting for sentencing before her transfer to Purdy, and interviewed her about the 2012 bones discovery.
The woman explained to McDonald that during the drainage ditch project, she and two fellow workers had been digging up the old drainage field and had reached a level about four feet down to the gravel layer. That’s when they found a skull, a femur, and an arm. She said she recalled that the teeth seemed worn but there had been no fillings. The skull had had a jagged hole in the back. She had guessed from the length of the bones that they had been those of a female.
She said she had wanted to leave the area after finding the remains. One of her companions, she said, had considered taking the skull. She had told him he’d better not. She then asked to be taken home. During the ride, she discovered that the co-worker had in fact taken the skull. At that point she had asked to be dropped off because she didn’t want anything to do with the bones.
She later found out that her nervousness had prompted the co-worker to return the skull to where he had found it. She never returned to the site but believed that the two men had finished the work, leaving the bones where they had found them.
On January 6, Sheriff’s detectives drove with the woman to the Agate Street residence so she could point out the location of the remains. She led them to an area in the front yard of the residence and was able to show them the area, which was between the edge of a deck and the edge of the dropoff down to the water.
Bainbridge Island Police Department Detective Scott Weiss then conducted a Kitsap County Assessor’s Office parcel search. He learned that the cabin on the property was built in about 1939 and he got the name of the owner. Weiss contacted him on January 8. The owner told Weiss that he had had the workers stop digging when they found the bones and to leave them where they were and cover them back up. He said he didn’t report the find because “He didn’t want to deal with it.” Weiss asked him what he meant, and he said he thought the remains were from an old Native American burial site and he didn’t want to deal with any legal issues regarding a Native American burial site on his property.
Weiss applied for a search warrant for the real property at the location, which was granted by Bainbridge Island Municipal Court Judge Sarah McCulloch on the 9th. He then consulted with Kathy Taylor, the State Forensic Anthropologist and a staff member with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Weiss also informed of the Suquamish Tribal Police. In the meantime, patrol officers provided scene security in case it turned out to be the location of a crime.
On the 29th, a little after 9 a.m., Weiss, accompanied by BIPD Officer Mo Stich, BIPD Deputy Chief Jeffrey Horn, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Smith, KCSO detectives Menge and Gundrum, and Senior Deputy Coroner Stewart and two deputy coroners drove to the Agate Street location to serve the warrant. The homeowner arrived about 20 minutes later.
Weiss asked him to identify the location. The homeowner asked that the contractor be summoned as he would know better. They waited for him to arrive on scene. Once there, he identified an area fairly close to the area the woman had earlier identified to KCSO deputies.
Menge and Weiss set up a 12-foot by 4-foot grid system with three areas. Weiss and Stich took turns excavating. The others sifted through the removed buckets of dirt, looking for remains. When they reached about 32 to 36 inches in depth, they began to uncover skeletal remains, including a partial skull, two long bones, teeth, and other fragments. Weiss photographed the remains and sent the photos to Taylor.
She called him back to tell him that the remains were between 100 and 200 years old and Native American in origin.
The Coroner took possession of the remains and the hole was refilled. State Physical Anthropologist Guy Tasa will coordinate with the Kitsap Coroner’s Office and the Suquamish Tribe to arrange a proper disposition of the remains.
Weiss said that other remains had been found in the area in prior years, and it seemed to be the location of a burial grounds.
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Photos by Scott Weiss.