ID of body found near Coastal Trail likely to take weeks

Michelle Theriault Boots

A body found off the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in West Anchorage is badly decomposed and it will likely take weeks -- and an analysis of dental records -- for medical examiners to determine cause of death and identify the body, Lt. Anthony Henry of the Anchorage Police Department said Tuesday.

The remains were found by a trail user Monday afternoon in a wooded area between the trail and inlet just east of Postmark Drive, according to APD spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.

Based on the body's state of decomposition it had been there for at least weeks, said Henry. Investigators have not been able to determine gender.

Bodies decompose at different rates based on exposure to the elements and weather, he said. Recent rainfall could have increase the rate of decay.

Police are saying little about the exact location where the body was found or how it was discovered.

The land north of the popular and busy coastal trail just east of Postmark Drive and west of Earthquake Park is densely forested, with small foot trails leading into the woods. A bluff gentle enough for detectives to walk up and down it leads to the shore of Cook Inlet.

Detectives and crime-scene investigators began working at the scene at 3:30 p.m. Monday and finished after dark. A medical examiner started work on the body Tuesday, Parker said.

The brother-in-law of Letitia Ann Baxter, a 63-year-old woman missing in Anchorage since August 3, said a detective called the family around 4 p.m. Monday to say human remains had been found. The detective said only that dental records were being checked and the family would be informed if a match between Baxter and the remains was made.

"We're waiting on pins and needles," said Bill Cross.

Detectives call families of missing people as a courtesy when remains are found, Parker said. The call does not mean the body has been identified as Baxter, he said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.

Anchorage Daily News