Body of missing woman found in wilderness

The remains believed to be those of a 27-year-old woman last seen a year ago in Freeland were discovered in a wilderness area near Winthrop Sept. 18.

The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office reported this week that two hunters discovered human remains in the Pasayten Wilderness. Officials believe they are the remains of Melissa M. Kerrigan, who had left behind a suicide note.

Detective Ed Wallace with the Island County Sheriff’s Office said Kerrigan lived in the Seattle area, but was visiting friends in Freeland in September 2011.

The friends reported her missing when she disappeared from their home Sept. 10 without explanation.

“They thought she may have been suicidal,” he said. “She left her worldly belongings with friends and took off. It was a pretty good indication.”

Detectives with the Island County Sheriff’s Office investigated the missing person case. Wallace said they discovered a note she had written to her father; it stated that she was going to the wilderness to end her life, according to a press release from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.

Kerrigan’s vehicle was found at the Billygoat Trailhead north of Winthrop on Sept. 29, 2011. The area was searched last October, but nothing was found.

Hunters discovered the remains about 6.5 miles from the trailhead. Sheriff Frank Rogers with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office described the areas as having “very nasty terrain with a lot of down fall.”

Two deputies hiked the trail with the two hunters and retrieved the remains Tuesday night. They will be sent for DNA testing to verify the identity.

Deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office notified Kerrigan’s mother, who lives on South Whidbey.