Legal challenge to Island County coroner dropped

A widow has dropped a legal challenge to the Island County coroner’s determination in the manner of her husband’s death.

Rachel P. Anderson was seeking a judicial review of Island County Coroner Robert Bishop’s determination that her husband, Martin Anderson, died as a result of suicide on South Whidbey on Oct. 17, 2011.

The family had a substantial life insurance policy that would not pay out in the event of suicide, according to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks.

The case was scheduled to go before a jury May 5, but Rachel Anderson and her attorney, John Peick of Bellevue, dismissed the case after a week of depositions, Banks said.

“I’m relieved that we’re not going to have to spend any more county money to preserve the determination,” Bishop said.

The order granting the dismissal was entered March 31.

“We agreed strongly with Dr. Bishop,” Banks said, “that the principled and correct decisions of an elected official cannot be overturned merely to assist an individual in her claim against an insurance company, even in tragic circumstances such as this.”

Anderson’s petition claimed that Martin Anderson’s death “was caused by unlawful or unnatural means, to-wit, homicide, accident or unintended adverse drug interactions.”

In court papers, Peick describes Martin Anderson as a happily married father of two with no financial challenges.

“On October 17, 2011, Martin Anderson had everything to live for,” Peick wrote.

Martin Anderson, a Bothell resident, left his work early on the day of his death and caught the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry — buying two one-way tickets — and went to the couple’s recreational home in Clinton, according to court documents.

Martin Anderson’s brother-in-law called the sheriff’s office and asked for a deputy to check on him because family members were unable to reach him by phone and he was due back at his Bothell home hours prior.

A deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office discovered Martin Anderson’s body in the backyard of a Clinton home while conducting a welfare check, according to documents obtained by Whidbey News Group through a public records request.

A deputy found Martin Anderson’s body face-down in the backyard of the vacation home. A small red-handled knife and sheath were found nearby. A small incision was located on his neck.

A detective was unable to find identifiable fingerprints on the knife or sheath.

Investigators found no evidence of a struggle or break-in at the house.

The petition, however, alleged that Bishop made the determination without adequate investigation.

Banks, however, said he stands by Bishop, whom he considers one of the top coroners in the state.

In fact, a forensic pathologist the county hired as an expert witness agreed not to charge for the hours of pretrial preparation, “out of their respect for Dr. Bishop’s high quality work,” Banks wrote.