UAA police release details of Kenyan runner's disappearance

December 5, 2011 

Cheseto

The University of Alaska Anchorage Police Department has released a redacted account of the 2-plus-day disappearance of star UAA runner Marko Cheseto during a November cold snap that resulted in the amputation of Cheseto's feet. The report, obtained by the campus newspaper The Northern Light, also describes an apparent suicide attempt by Cheseto on April 2, six weeks after his teammate, friend and countryman William Ritekwiang committed suicide.

According to the police reports, drawn from an interview with Cheseto by UAA officer Virginia Jaksha, his Nov. 6 ordeal started when he went to the residence of another Kenyan friend to talk about how "he was having to struggle to get through life," but his friend had to go to work. After having dinner with friends from church -- who told police Cheseto seemed normal, though he had no appetite -- he returned to campus to study, then decided he wanted to be alone and started running along the Chester Creek Trail.

From The Northern Light (with redacted portions marked "blank"):

"He was unsure for a few minutes what he wanted to do, but then decided he would go ahead and (blank) and just "(blank)," Jaksha wrote. "After (blank), he threw his water bottle away and began running."

Cheseto headed toward East High school.

"He stated that he remembered going up a steep hill, coming back down it, and then taking a left turn off the trail and running into the woods."

Cheseto passed out at this point.

When he woke up, it was snowing and a tree was above him. He was in a small clearing. The snow had completely buried his legs.

"He said he tried to stand up and he couldn't, and that he was unable to yell or scream for help." After some 25 minutes, he pulled himself up using a tree for support. He walked in place, trying to gain more mobility. Throughout this time he could not feel his legs.

Cheseto heard some cars, and began walking towards the sounds.

"He stated that there was a lot of snow and he kept falling down."

Scores of people had been searching East Anchorage trails for Cheseto but could not find him. Eventually, with his feet badly frozen, Cheseto made his way to the SpringHill Suites hotel just off the UAA campus, and from there was taken to the hospital. There, Cheseto told police he was shocked at how long he had gone missing.

A fund has been established for Cheseto's care and recovery.

Read more at The Northern Light.