A Hiker Died With a Bullet in His Chest. Why Did Police Say He Was Stabbed by a Stick?

SFC13557

NES Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Messages
4,229
Likes
5,432
Location
Central Ma.
Feedback: 0 / 0 / 0

Rural Washington sheriff’s office is accused of bungling the investigation of Aron Christensen’s death and faking an exit wound on his dog Buzzo​

From Today's WSJ.
WTF?

LEWIS COUNTY, Wash.—Wendy Tanner was hiking with her husband in the Cascade Mountains when she saw a burly, bearded man lying beside the trail. She called out, but he didn’t respond. As she drew closer, she said, she saw a wound in his rib cage and a dead puppy lying next to him.

“Oh, my God, is somebody shooting hikers?” Tanner asked her husband.

But the first deputy from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office on the scene on Aug. 20 of last year assured her that the man hadn’t been shot, Tanner recalled. He said the man, later identified as Aron Christensen, had probably fallen on a stick or had a heart attack.
Corey Christensen, a music teacher from outside Salem, Ore., said he got news of his brother’s death the next day. Overcome by shock and grief, he scribbled notes so he would be able to remember when he told his parents. “We believe it’s from a massive heart attack,” the woman from the coroner’s office told him. “It doesn’t seem suspicious.”

A few weeks later, a detective from the sheriff’s department called Corey Christensen and told him his brother might have died from laced marijuana. Corey was stunned. “We’re living here in the Pacific Northwest where weed is legal,” he recalled thinking. “No one is dying of laced marijuana.”

The Lewis County Coroner, Warren McLeod, said it was a mistake for his deputy to tell Corey Christensen that his brother had died of a heart attack. But he noted that there were much bigger problems with the case.

“This case is not just hiccuping, it’s setting off seismographs,” he said.

Ten months later, authorities haven’t filed charges against anyone, even though a man admitted to shooting a gun nearby that matched the bullet found in Aron Christensen’s chest.

Local prosecutors have said they can’t proceed, citing a botched investigation that began with the deputy overlooking the gunshot wound and ended with a veterinarian accusing officials of tampering with the corpse of Buzzo, Aron Christensen’s four month-old Australian Cattle Dog.

Corey Christensen has found his quest for justice for his brother Aron, a 49-year-old musician from Portland, Ore., to be at turns baffling and maddening.

“I thought I was going crazy for a while,” he said. “But there’s a difference between you being crazy and it driving you crazy.”

Aron Christensen’s family has filed a legal claim against the sheriff’s department, alleging that investigators sabotaged the probe, and have called on state officials to take over the case.

This story is based on interviews and police documents, as well as audio and video recordings released by local authorities. A spokesman for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment. Law-enforcement officials involved in the case declined to comment.

In an interview with a local newspaper, the Chronicle, Sheriff Rob Snaza said officers in his department erred when they initially concluded Aron Christensen hadn’t been shot. “Do I wish it was different? Absolutely,” he said. “Would it change the outcome of the case? Absolutely not.”

A body and a shooter’s confession​

Lewis County has more cows than people, locals often say. It is a gateway for hikers, climbers and backpackers on their way to the volcanic peaks of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.

Last August, Aron Christensen and a group of friends set up camp at Walupt Lake for a friend’s birthday. Christensen, who often sought solitude in nature, left early Friday morning for a solo hike. He planned on being back to help cook dinner with his friends Saturday night. Tanner and other hikers found his body that day instead.

Andrew Scrivner was the first deputy from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department to arrive. But when he examined the body, he was confused. “It is difficult to tell if it was from a bullet or from a tree limb or stick that may have protruded into his body,” he said in his report.

He didn’t see any bullet wounds in the puppy, and after searching the area for 25 minutes, he couldn’t find any shell casings. Scrivner didn’t think there was any foul play, according to the report. He instructed dispatchers to tell the detectives that they weren’t needed at the scene, a decision that was backed by his supervisor. He hauled the body down the mountain with the help of a forest service officer and other campers.

The day after Aron Christensen’s body was found, Michael Asbach phoned the Lewis County Sheriff’s department to say that his son, Ethan Asbach, had shot a dog near Walupt Lake and found a man’s body with a bullet in it, according to an official report.

Scrivner called Asbach, who was 19 at the time and worked at a car dealership, and immediately noticed that he seemed anxious and upset, he wrote in the report. The teen often stopped midsentence to sigh heavily.

Asbach told Scrivner he had set out around 9 p.m. with his girlfriend on a 3½-hour hike along a steep trail to meet his father to go bear hunting. He was carrying his dad’s 9mm handgun for protection. Sometime after 10 p.m., the pair heard growling and saw glowing eyes on the side of the trail.

Asbach said he screamed at the animal, but it advanced toward them, so he fired his gun. He walked over to inspect it, but instead of a wild animal, he saw the body of a man. He saw the bullet hole in his chest, and he saw the puppy lying dead.

“The bullet had went through the dog and into the guy and it all lines up ‘cause it was like a straight shot,” Asbach told Scrivner, according to a transcript of the call.

Asbach said he didn’t try to call 911, even once he got back within cell range.

“I was just thinking about all the trouble that I’m getting everybody else into and not just myself, like, I am completely at fault,” he told the deputy, according to the transcript. “I pulled the trigger, I did that, I’m responsible, but (sniff) it was my dad’s gun.”

X-rays performed by the county coroner confirmed that there was a bullet inside of Aron Christensen.

It now looked like Christensen had been shot to death. But detectives had never had the chance to examine the crime scene.

Corey Christensen found out about Asbach’s account some two weeks later when he spoke with Jamey McGinty, a detective on the case. McGinty described the shooter as a good kid from a good family, Corey recalled.

Scrivner and McGinty didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Ethan Asbach didn’t respond to requests for comment. His father said that Ethan didn’t deserve blame.

“It’s a huge burden for the Christensen family, but no one feels sympathy for Ethan and things he had to go through,” said Michael Asbach. “There was never ever ill intent out of that kid.”

A controversial canine exit wound​

Outside professionals brought in by the sheriff to examine the bodies of Aron Christensen and Buzzo noticed odd behavior on the part of sheriff’s investigators.

Forensic pathologist Megan Quinn told prosecutors she felt as though a detective wanted her autopsy report to fit a specific narrative.

Quinn saw indications in Christensen’s heart tissue that he was having a heart attack at the time of his death and the detective immediately said, “Can I call my sheriff and tell him that’s the cause of death?” she recalled, according to a transcript of her interview with the prosecutor.

“Well, he still has a bullet in him,” she replied.

When she issued her final report in October, Quinn listed the cause of death as “gunshot wound of the chest,” and the manner of death as “homicide.”

She wrote that there was also evidence of a heart attack less than 12 hours before his death—but that Christensen was alive when he was struck by the bullet.

Brandy Fay, a local veterinarian, examined Buzzo and determined that the puppy had died of a stab wound. She said she was surprised when sheriff and coroner officials later gave her Asbach’s account of the dog being shot.

Fay said she scoffed and told them it was impossible, because there was no bullet in the dog and no exit wound.

Unbeknown to Fay, the local prosecutor’s office advised the sheriff’s investigators to seek a second opinion. Kris Otteman, a veterinarian from the Portland area, peeled back the puppy’s skin and found an exit wound that had been hidden under his fur. She concluded that Buzzo had been killed by a bullet that passed through his body.

The first vet, Fay, wanted to see this exit wound. Months later, with the permission of Aron Christensen’s family, she put Buzzo’s body on her exam table again. She examined the wound and found that there was no bleeding around it. It led her to suspect that the wound had been made by someone after her first examination.

“Dead dogs don’t bleed,” she said.

In a memorandum to his supervisor, Detective McGinty from the sheriff’s department denied that anyone had created the wound.

No charges​

This spring, Jonathan Meyer, the top prosecutor in Lewis County, told Aron Christensen’s family that although the sheriff’s department was recommending manslaughter and animal cruelty charges against Asbach, he wouldn’t be filing any charges in the case.

Meyer explained his reasoning in an April 13 letter to the sheriff’s department.

“The responding deputy made the obvious error when indicating detectives were not needed to respond to the report of a gunshot victim,” Meyer wrote. “The old adage of ‘investigate it like it’s a homicide until it isn’t’ was not followed here.”

The prosecutor mused in his letter about the various shortcomings of the investigation.

“We can only speculate about what might have been,” he wrote. “This Office must base its decision on the evidence we have.”

In May, Aron Christensen’s family filed a $20 million legal claim against the county, alleging that they had bungled the investigation. Pilar French, an attorney working pro bono for Corey Christensen, also sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee asking that the state step in and investigate the case.

Inslee’s office wrote back last week, declining to get involved.

Corey Christensen said he has had a recurring nightmare: A frozen image of Aron with his backpack and his puppy out in the woods. The image is charged with uneasiness and anger he has felt at hearing that the shooter was a good kid or that his brother was killed by laced marijuana.

“None of it adds up,” he said."
 

"Both Asbach and the teenage girl stated while hiking they heard growling noises and saw the eyes of what they believed to be a wild animal. Asbach told deputies out of fear, he fired a single shot from a gun toward the animal."
 

"Both Asbach and the teenage girl stated while hiking they heard growling noises and saw the eyes of what they believed to be a wild animal. Asbach told deputies out of fear, he fired a single shot from a gun toward the animal."
Once again....."Feelings" kill.
 
Is there enough here to prosecute and get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt?

I doubt it.

Popo f***ed up big time.

Confessing to shooting at a puppy and killing a man, and the bullet matches, isn’t enough? Even with a botched (at best) investigation and lots of suspicion that the details in shooter’s story are off, there seems to be plenty to support a charge of something like negligent manslaughter.
 
Confessing to shooting at a puppy and killing a man, and the bullet matches, isn’t enough? Even with a botched (at best) investigation and lots of suspicion that the details in shooter’s story are off, there seems to be plenty to support a charge of something like negligent manslaughter.
Not with that heart attack 12h prior, there's no way he should have been hiking and walking his dog, he totally could have just dropped dead and not been killed by the hiker, he also could have been compromised and in a immediate medical emergency. I have no idea what leash laws are like out there, but being assaulted by a strangers dog is a crime, and self defense is viable. Let that roll down the hill for thr armchair lawyers of who's responsible for the collateral damage there.

You got a dog with an entry wound that may have been from a dgu, the status of the exit wound is questionable. That's a he said she said, and in my book there's a shit load of reasonable doubt on that.

Then you have the narrative that the guy was already dead aftet being impaled by a tree and struck by the bullet, vs the guy shot the hiker and his dog, as well as the guy shot the dog and hit the maybe dead maybe not hiker and you have no crime scene investigation, poor reporting, a medical coroner on record stating police were looking for a specific narrative, there's holes everywhere, absolutely no way you could get a guilty verdict off this.
 
i've heard it's very hard to tell a stick puncture wound from a gs entry hole. even more so if it's a .40 size hole. i dunno for sure, though.
 
If the kid was shooting at the dog....the dog is or was a puppy. Small, very low to the ground. If the guy was having an attack he could have been on the ground near the same level as the puppy. Kid shoots dog, bullet passes through the dog, goes into man who was either dead or dying with the dog trying to console him.

Could be argued mistaken identity of the animal and never saw the guy until after when he went to check out the animal carcass...

Could create enough doubt to prove that it was all unintentional, even the animal cruelty charge.

As far as not reporting it I am not sure what the laws are on that but I'm sure there is something.
 
If the kid was shooting at the dog....the dog is or was a puppy. Small, very low to the ground. If the guy was having an attack he could have been on the ground near the same level as the puppy. Kid shoots dog, bullet passes through the dog, goes into man who was either dead or dying with the dog trying to console him.

Could be argued mistaken identity of the animal and never saw the guy until after when he went to check out the animal carcass...

Could create enough doubt to prove that it was all unintentional, even the animal cruelty charge.

As far as not reporting it I am not sure what the laws are on that but I'm sure there is something.
The dog was stabbed.
 
If the kid was shooting at the dog....the dog is or was a puppy. Small, very low to the ground. If the guy was having an attack he could have been on the ground near the same level as the puppy. Kid shoots dog, bullet passes through the dog, goes into man who was either dead or dying with the dog trying to console him.

Could be argued mistaken identity of the animal and never saw the guy until after when he went to check out the animal carcass...

Could create enough doubt to prove that it was all unintentional, even the animal cruelty charge.

As far as not reporting it I am not sure what the laws are on that but I'm sure there is something.
Not sure if guy actually was having a heart attack. He definitely was shot. Maybe shooter came upon dog as the dog was coming up a hill and when he shot it the bullet went through the dog and the owner walking up the hill behind him? Not sure how you shoot at a smaller dog and it ends up in a guys chest afterwards, but I guess it could ricochet. I thought they said the dog was stabbed and the ”exit wound” fond later in the dog is suspect? Maybe he shot at dog and missed and hot guy and then stabbed the dog to cover it up?
 
The dog was stabbed.
Was it though? Two reports conflict, one states shot with pass through, the other states stab, or possibly entry.

This story all revolves around the shooter shooting at 9pm during bear season when he heard the animal through the trees.

I find it unlikely there was one shot. Maybe he hit them both separately.

Without a crime scene report it's all speculation, this was absolutely mishandled.
 
Scrivener! I knew it.


Kidding aside, the shooter knows someone who knows someone. RIP to the dead man and payday will be a while but it is gonna happen.
 
there's holes everywhere, absolutely no way you could get a guilty verdict off this.

I agree there are lots of holes and questions and it’s not cut and dry, black and white. But to say there’s “no way” they could get a guilt verdict when the guy admits to shooting them AND never reported it and left him there dead, strains credibility. There’s absolutely a way to convict with those facts alone even with lots of other bad facts or circumstances.

I suspect there’s even more to this story than what’s being reported. It’s unlike prosecutors to pass up on prosecuting someone that admits to shooting someone and then leaving and never reporting it.
 
Not sure if guy actually was having a heart attack. He definitely was shot. Maybe shooter came upon dog as the dog was coming up a hill and when he shot it the bullet went through the dog and the owner walking up the hill behind him? Not sure how you shoot at a smaller dog and it ends up in a guys chest afterwards, but I guess it could ricochet. I thought they said the dog was stabbed and the ”exit wound” fond later in the dog is suspect? Maybe he shot at dog and missed and hot guy and then stabbed the dog to cover it up?
Yup. Very plausible scenario. Super creepy if this was deliberate.
 
Any time the government wants one of their friendly ME(human or otherwise) to check out a corpse, stick with what the other one said!
 
Back
Top Bottom