ANCHORAGE — Two people discovered the body of a man in woods near the Sullivan Arena Tuesday morning, making him the fifth person to be found dead outdoors in Anchorage this year, according to police.
Police found the body just before 7 a.m. after the passersby reported it, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. Police described the body as an Alaska Native male in his 30s or 40s but haven’t released his name.
The body was face down in a grove of trees and tall grass near an asphalt path connecting the outdoor ice rinks behind the Sullivan Arena to the Chester Creek trail. The area is popular with bicyclists, runners and walkers along with homeless campers who have worn paths into the woods and left tents, bottles and plastic bags.
Four other people have died outdoors in Anchorage this year, one just a few yards away from the body discovered Tuesday.
On the morning of May 18, a passerby found the body of John Waskey, a 55-year-old from Illiamna, under a bridge crossing Chester Creek, according to police.
That was the day of a late spring snowstorm — the police report noted it had been snowing all night — and Waskey’s clothes were wet and muddy. A jacket and hat were lying nearby.
Police are still waiting on toxicology results but believe exposure may have played a role in Waskey’s death, said APD detective Slawomir Markiewicz.
Eleven days later, on May 29, Jesse Kahutak stopped breathing after spending the evening drinking with his brother at Springer Park at 3809 Arctic Boulevard, near the house where they were living with other family members, according to a police report.
The brother and Anchorage Fire Department personnel performed CPR on Kahutak for over an hour before the 36-year-old was pronounced dead, according to the report.
On July 3, a woman walking down the alley at Fourth Avenue and Hyder Street in Fairview found 32-year-old Juan Lopez on the ground, not breathing, a police report said.
Medics tried to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
An obituary placed in the Daily News by family members said Lopez was in a car accident when he was a senior at Dimond High School and had struggled with health issues, including epilepsy, ever since.
He had a son he “talked about all the time,” according to the obituary.
Police are still trying to identify one of the five.
The decomposed body of an adult woman was found in a wooded area near the parking lot of Bartlett High School on June 10, according to police.
The woman was dressed in winter gear, and a makeshift shelter and food items were found nearby, Markiewicz said. Her body had probably been there for most of the winter, he said.
Police say she had an out-of-state ID and credit cards on her, but they are waiting to confirm her identity with dental records.
It’s often assumed that people found dead outdoors in Anchorage are homeless and their deaths caused by alcohol, Markiewicz said.
It’s often more complicated than that, he said: Detectives sometimes find that people have homes and families but have left them to spend days or weeks on the streets. Some have existing medical problems. Others succumb to hypothermia, which kills more people in the spring and fall than in the dead of winter. Police haven’t released an official cause of death in any of the cases.
Foul play has been ruled out in all of the deaths, Markiewicz said.