MLT police chief shares more details regarding Cheryl DeBoer investigation

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    Cheryl DeBoer

    The Mountlake Terrace Police Department on Tuesday shared additional details regarding their investigation into the death of a Mountlake Terrace woman whose body was found in a culvert more than a month ago. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined Monday that 53-year-old Cheryl DeBoer died of asphyxiation by a bag over her head and freshwater drowning and the Mountlake Terrace Police Department said Monday there is no evidence of homicidal violence.

     

    The manner of her death has not yet been determined, and likely won’t be for months as investigators await analysis of her computer and phone records and other forensic data – all with support from other federal, state and county officials.

    “We’re working with multiple agencies that are providing assistance with this,” Police Chief Greg Wilson said Tuesday.

    For example, the Washington State Patrol is assisting with processing evidence through their crime lab. The Everett Police Department is analyzing DeBoer’s computer records. The U.S. Marshals office is looking at her phone data. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner, Sheriff’s Office and Prosecutor’s Office have also been involved with elements of the investigation, such as determining the cause of death, search and rescue and obtaining search warrants.

    While this provides greater resources for the Mountlake Terrace Police Department, it also means that investigators have to abide by the timelines set by those other departments, which constantly have other cases and limitations. For example, a technician in Spokane who is analyzing blood evidence is on leave through the end of March.

    “We need to wait for all of this to come back to us, which causes delays,” Wilson said.

    The police chief stressed that while he understands the public’s desire for quick resolution of the case, his department will not make any conclusions regarding DeBoer’s manner of death until all of the evidence has been analyzed.

    “We’re going to be very meticulous in our investigation to make sure that we’re thorough,” Wilson said. “I think the public is used to seeing a crime drama on TV where the incident or crime is solved within an hour. It creates the belief that this is quick. It is not.”

    Wilson said again Tuesday that the evidence that investigators have found so far does not suggest homicide.

    “At this time, there is no evidence to support the manner to be an act of homicidal violence,” Wilson said. “When we investigate cases like this, it’s important that we remove the emotion and focus on the physical evidence or lack of physical evidence, which is still evidence.”

    “What we know is the physical evidence, or lack thereof, discovered at either scene does not support that there was evidence of a robbery, assault, abduction or homicide,” Wilson said, referring both to where DeBoer’s car was found at a Mountlake Terrace Park and Ride overflow lot on Feb. 8 and where her body was discovered at Cedar Way and 244th Street Southwest on Feb. 14.

    Five weeks after DeBoer’s body was discovered, there have still been no eyewitness reports from anyone who may have seen or heard anything near where DeBoer’s car was located in the parking lot at 23400 block of 58th Avenue West, which is typically busy on a Monday morning.

    DeBoer’s car was found locked and secure, with nothing around the car or in the car to indicate foul play, Wilson said.

    “If there was an assault, abduction or attack, you would expect to see some kind of evidence, like belongings on the ground or disorganization around the scene, especially at the time this would have occurred,” he said.

    Blood was found on the passenger side of the car. A small amount of the blood on the center console, seat and door is DeBoer’s blood. Two small cuts were found on two of DeBoer’s fingers, which the medical examiner determined appear to be self-inflicted.

    However, a larger amount of blood on the floorboard of the car is animal. What type of animal blood and how it got there is yet to be determined.

    DeBoer’s body was found lying face down in a culvert near the intersection of Cedar Way and 244th Street Southwest with a bag loosely secured over her head. It was a take-out bag from a fast food restaurant she frequented, Wilson said.

    Her clothing was on and was intact and orderly. It was not disheveled or torn. There was no sign that she had been tied up, handcuffed or contained in any way.

    “One would expect to see injuries if she was attacked or held against her will,” Wilson said.

    The culvert she was found in is large, Wilson said. Investigators who are 6 feet tall or taller were able to walk and stand inside. A creek runs through the culvert. It is about 2 to 3 feet deep. From the east, the culvert is blocked by blackberry bushes and other shrubs that were not disturbed, but from the west, where most of the traffic would be in that area, the opening is clear.

    “There is no physical evidence that she was forced into the culvert. You would expect to find disheveled clothing or scrapes, but there was nothing like that,” Wilson said.

    A razor blade was found in DeBoer’s pocket.

    Wilson emphasized Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing.

    “We still have more investigating to do. This case is not closed,” he said. “The investigation involves the examination of computer records, cell phone records, and we’re waiting on the return from the crime lab on a number of pieces of evidence that have been submitted.”

    Members of DeBoer’s family have been speaking out online about the investigation.

    On the MLTnews Facebook page Monday night, Mike DeBoer, Cheryl’s husband, commented, “This women was my wife and she would never had done this to herself the police are still working on the case and there are thing[s] the public doesn’t know. And the public should be worried.”

    Lenore Peterson, Cheryl DeBoer’s mother, commented, “As confusing as the news reports are, our family is unwilling to discontinue the investigation surrounding Cheryl’s death. It is inconceivable that Cheryl would take meat out of the freezer for dinner, text the driver of her carpool that she would be at the park and ride in 10 minutes, park her car, walk 1 1/2 miles, crawl through brambles and mud, put a plastic bag over her head and lie face down in a cold shallow creek to end her life.”

    Peterson also asks anyone who knows anything or saw anything suspicious on the morning of Monday, Feb. 8 to contact the Mountlake Terrace Police Department.

    –By Natalie Covate

    14 COMMENTS

    1. Really! You call that clarification? A little clarification would be nice to know why you have allocated so many different agencies all over the state of Washington to take part in an investigation, wich surely we’ll compromise the case. Its hard enough for one agency to keep everyone and everything straight and on the same page. This family deserves thorough and quick investigation by the MLPD, and if they cant provide the appropriate Manning and resources to investigate this case which reading between lines of the Mlt chiefs statement most likely going to be a suicide in there eyes. Then They need to explain to the family and the citizens of city Mountlake Terrace why they cant. And how safe are the citizens of Mountlake Terrace, because the chief said right after this incident that the MLT public was not in danger with no explanation to why they felt. that way.

    2. I have to admit this woman’s death seems very suspicious to me. I pray that the police are able to sort it out and give her family and community some closure.

    3. Thank you for a few more details about the investigation MLT police. I have imagined many scenarios these past few weeks. For instance, if Cheryl was walking back to her car in the wooded area and someone pointed a gun at her, I imagine she would comply with their demands. Therefore, there wouldn’t be much evidence of a struggle.It doesn’t seem like she even made it back to her car to drive home and get her work ID. Who powered off her cell phone shortly after her text? I don’t know Cheryl, but I seriously doubt she would power off her own phone after texting her friend. I imagine that waiting friend sent more texts. Where is Cheryl’s cell phone? I also doubt she discarded her own phone. Where is her personal ID? If she was taken and rendered unconscious when placed in that culvert then it could appear that she went there of her own free will. Maybe someone had been watching her. I’m still convinced this was a homicide. Praying the authorities will find some evidence to help catch the creep(s). MLT citizens be aware of your surroundings & be safe! Thank you MLT news. Please keep hounding the authorities.

    4. Just as a matter to consider: It seems the police are using a time-line based on the text message to Cheryl’s friend that she was going back home for her ID. What if, for the sake of argument, that text message, while sent on her phone, wasn’t actually sent by Cheryl? What if the perpetrator used her phone to establish a misleading time-line? What if she died some earlier time. I’m having a hard time understanding the statement that there is no indication of homicide. Did she put the bag over her head before she drowned or after she drowned? Did she park her car by the library before or after she placed herself in the culvert? See? Too many questions remain for a statement to be made about the manner of death. It remains a matter of community concern — I occasionally use the transit center during the day when there are no other people there. I admit to being more cautious than usual. So far, the police department hasn’t been a source of reassurance to the public.

    5. Please pardon my ignorance. I’m truly searching for answers to these questions: Is it physically possible to place a bag over your own head and ALLOW yourself to suffocate? And, if so, and you happen to do so while lying face down in a culvert with a stream running through it, could you physically allow yourself to drown or would you body somehow take action to save your life? And, just as an aside, if both these assertions are true, would you ASPHYXIATE first, or DROWN first…I don’t see how you could do both? Help please?

      • Yes, it is possible to suffocate with your head inside a plastic bag. That is why warnings to keep them away from children are printed on the bags.

        I have refrained from voicing any opinion as to what did or did not happen that day. A competent investigation pursues all leads and draws conclusions based upon the evidence. It does not start out with a theory and then try to gather and analyze evidence in support of the theory.

    6. Here’s to hoping the forensic technicians can pull some useful information from the plastic bag found on Cheryl’s head. A fingerprint would be a godsend!! Go crime lab go.

    7. Let’s hope more evidence comes out in this case. It doesn’t seem like Cheryl was intending to take her life. She had planned to make dinner and she notified a friend that she would be back in 10 minutes. I agree that it is important to thoroughly analyze all the evidence, even if it seems against what Cheryl would do, but I worry that the police are drawing conclusions of suicide too quickly.

    8. No, we haven’t forgotten. Yes, we are still concerned. Yes, we would still like to know what really happened.

    9. Just answer me this: If this WASN’T a homicide, how did Cheryl get from anywhere near the park and ride/library down to this culvert (about 2 miles away) with NO ONE seeing her as people were headed to work that morning? That, more than anything is what has me puzzled.

    10. The plastic bag found over her head apparently was from a fast food restaurant she frequented. That issue has created some confusion. Would a stranger intent on committing a homicide use a plastic bag that just happened to be in a vehicle? It makes no sense. Hence, the police are leaning towards it being a suicide. Also, the majority of men who commit murder use a weapon, i.e., gun, knife, anything to end the person’s life by physical violence. How do we know a woman wasn’t involved? How do we know it wasn’t someone she knew? Why didn’t the police dog pick up a scent to the culvert where her body was discovered? Where did the cellphone go? Where are some of the initial items reported missing from her purse? Why is there animal blood on the floorboard of her vehicle? She wouldn’t plan to make dinner and then end her life suddenly. Women typically take pills or slit their wrists and do it at home. They don’t get dressed for work, make plans to meet a friend to carpool, and then kill themselves with a plastic bag. The sad part is that what we do know about this case makes it surreal, and a woman has lost her life without anyone understanding why.

    11. I am a little surprised by the posted comments. It must be frustrating to be in law enforcement because of the need to deal with the public’s lack of understanding in a respectful way without compromising the investigation. The fact that she was thawing meat and texted her ride to go on without her does not mean she was not in a mind state to commit suicide. The fact that she possessed a razor and had self inflicted cuts and a little blood was present in her car that could be human blood is very unusual. She may have lost a lot of blood due to the cuts and the nearly 2 mile walk to the culvert . A previous comment asked if she would have placed the bag over her head before or after she drowned and if she parked her car before or after she placed herself in the culvert. I don’t understand how it is possible to do either after the act. Please explain what you intended to suggest. It may be that the plastic bag was intended to finish the act that started with the cuts. Still possible that another person was involved but unlikely. I hope we get some forensic answers soon. It has been 3 1/2 months and the public has been very patient.

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