A man's body was found face-down in a ditch near Northway Mall on Wednesday afternoon -- the seventh unexplained death in Anchorage streets or parks since early May.
The body of the yet-unidentified man was at the bottom of a ravine running alongside Airport Heights Drive, amid tall grass and trickling water flowing from a culvert under Penland Parkway.
Two people discovered the body and went to the nearby fire department station to report it at about 1:50 p.m., Anchorage police spokeswoman Anita Shell said. The dead man was white, in his mid-40s and had probably been in the spot for less than a day, she said.
It is an area known as a hangout for inebriates, according to police.
"The area behind it's kind of littered with alcohol bottles, and boxes and cans," Shell said. "It is a frequent spot for people to drink."
Police maintain that the seven deaths all appear unrelated and that they are the result of hard life on the streets, not foul play. Investigators haven't released the cause of death in any of the cases, saying testing is still being conducted.
"It's concerning to see the deaths, of course," Shell said. "It's a tragedy in our community when anybody dies. Again, we're not linking these. We can't say that there's somebody out there doing something. It's just a lifestyle that's very unfortunate. And if this ends up being the same sort of situation, you just have multiple deaths. It's just very tragic."
As have all the others but one, Wednesday's find showed no obvious signs of trauma, although the man did have a mark indicating he may have recently been treated for a medical condition, Shell said.
The medical examiner showed up on scene and rolled the man to snap photos of his front before loading him in a black body bag.
Police took an ID card from his pocket but needed to confirm his identity through fingerprints and to notify his family, Shell said. The body would be examined and undergo standard toxicology screening to help determine the cause of death, she said.
Results of toxicology tests, which generally take between four and six weeks at an out-of-state lab, done on the previous bodies have not yet come back, Shell said.
The only body to show signs of trauma was that of Danny Wright, 56, of Anchorage. He was found May 16 submerged in Campbell Creek near 48th Avenue and Lake Otis Parkway, with a head laceration that remains under investigation.
The men who have died have all been homeless or at least were familiar with life on the city's streets. They ranged in age from 38 to 58. The other five:
• Joseph Ferreira, 53, originally from Kotzebue, was found June 3 lying outside an apartment building at 1004 Ingra St. with blood coming out of his mouth.
• Edwin Wheeler, 45, originally from Bethel, was found June 1 near a picnic table outside an apartment building at 436 E. 11th Ave. with alcohol bottles and cans nearby.
• Simeon Boots, 38, of Anchorage, was found May 14 on the ground at the edge of woods in Campbell Park, where Laurel Street meets Campbell Creek south of Tudor Road.
• Wesley Small, 50, of Anchorage, was found in a tent by a passer-by on May 12 near Third Avenue and Orca Street.
• Stanley Ivey, 58, of Anchorage, was found May 7 in park woods at 20th Avenue and Karluk Street.
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.