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Coroner closes Linda Moran case

"A wreath, photograph, and flowers mark a tree on Bayview Road near the property where Linda Moran's remains were found last month. Matt Johnson / staff photoUnable to find any evidence that would tip him off to the cause of Linda Moran's death, the Island County Coroner called his investigation quits last week after spending more than a month examining the South Whidbey woman's remains.Three children found Moran's bones on April 13 on a wooded Bayview Road property. The discovery gave the Island County Sheriff's Office its first break in the case of Moran's Dec. 22, 1996 disappearance.But finding the bones and a few pieces of Moran's clothing was as far as that break went. Bishop, along with two forensic anthropologists, a forensic pathologist, and investigators from the Washington State Patrol all examined the remains, but were unable to find any clues that indicated a cause of death. Because he was working with just bones, Bishop said, it is impossible to know if Moran died from some sort of soft tissue trauma, such as strangulation or poisoning. The investigators found no unusual marks or abrasions on the bones that might be caused by a knife or bullet, but that does not rule out the possibility that Moran was stabbed or shot.In the face of this lack of evidence, Bishop signed Moran's death certificate and returned her remains to her family last Friday. On the certificate, the cause and manner of Moran's death is listed as undetermined.We're putting this away, Bishop said. There comes a point when we can't discover any more.Bishop noted that he has no evidence that favors a hypothesis of foul play over a natural death in this case. It is just as likely Moran died of natural causes or suicide as of murder. The weather conditions on the night Moran disappeared could even have caused her to die of exposure - it was below freezing and snow was falling on that December day four years ago. Moran was last seen alive by her husband, Bill Moran, while the couple was at the Bayview Exxon station. He said she was mentally unstable at the time.Repeated visits to the site at which Moran's remains were found have turned up nothing of interest outside of bones and scraps of clothing. Bishop noted that the remains were not buried - they were found in the open on the forest floor.The result of the investigation was a disappointment to both the coroner and Moran's family, Bishop said. Moran's death is one of only five in Island County during the past six years in which he has been unable to ascertain the cause of death.In a press release sent out Thursday, Linda Moran's sister, Roberta Goodwin, said she and Moran's family find no fault with Bishop's investigation. However, Goodwin wrote in the release, the family still believes Moran was in a very negative situation in her married life. The coroner's office will revisit the case if more evidence is ever found. However, Bishop said, he was not hopeful about ever finding out what killed Linda Moran.She took a lot with her, he said. "

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