Family: Case of Dead Hiker Was Bungled From the Start

The 'Wall Street Journal' looks at the death of Aron Christensen
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2023 4:45 PM CDT
Family: Case of Dead Hiker and His Puppy Was Bungled
The Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington state.   (Getty Images / Vince Barnes)

"None of it adds up." So says the brother of Aron Christensen, who was found dead alongside a trail in Washington state's Goat Rocks Wilderness nearly a year ago. His dead puppy was by his side. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Zusha Elinson unpacks the case. Andrew Scrivner, a deputy with the Lewis County Sheriff's Office, responded to the scene on Aug. 20, 2022, and observed a wound but couldn't determine "if it was from a bullet or from a tree limb or stick that may have protruded into his body," he wrote in his report. A thorough search of the area didn't turn up any shell casings. He decided (and his supervisor agreed) that detectives weren't needed at the scene, and he and a forest ranger carried the body down. The family was initially told it looked like the 49-year-old had a heart attack. But then came the twists.

A man called the sheriff's department the next day to say his 19-year-old son had shot at an advancing wild animal in that area. When Ethan Asbach was later interviewed by Scrivner, he allegedly said he went over to inspect the wild animal and instead found his single bullet had felled the puppy and then the man. A bullet was indeed found in Christensen, but the vet who examined puppy Buzzo found no exit wound; she believed he had been stabbed. After a second vet found said exit wound, the first vet requested another look. This time, she saw the exit wound, but it was absent blood, leading her to believe it was inflicted post-mortem. The sheriff's department denies that. And though the sheriff's department recommended manslaughter and animal cruelty charges be filed against Asbach, none were, with the prosecutor citing the absence of detectives at the scene. Christensen's family has sued the county for $20 million over what they allege was a bungled investigation. (Read the full story.)

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