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Alaska News

Troopers not ruling out foul play in deaths of couple found at Byers Lake

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: March 6, 2018
  • Published March 6, 2018

A few details emerged this week about the Wasilla couple found dead at Byers Lake in late February, but the cause of their deaths remains a mystery.

Ross Hagens and his wife, Michelle Danek, both 31, were found Feb. 27 at Byers Lake Campground near Mile 147 of the Parks Highway. The campground in Denali State Park isn't regularly maintained in winter, but people ski or snowshoe to three public-use cabins from a parking lot.

A state parks maintenance worker found the bodies of Hagens and Danek in the snow near their parked pickup, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.

The cause and manner of the couple's deaths have not yet been determined, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. Troopers have not ruled out foul play.

Toxicology results could take 4 to 8 weeks, Peters said. "That is one of the things we will be looking at to potentially help determine cause and manner of death."

The worker at the state-run campground was plowing the parking lot to clear overnight snow when he saw the couple's truck and assumed the truck belonged to someone staying at a public-use cabin, Peters wrote in an email. He found the bodies when he approached to ask that the truck be moved.

Hagens and Danek died some time overnight before they were found, she said.

The worker notified a state parks ranger, according to Wayne Biessel, Mat-Su area office superintendent for the state Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation. Troopers were also called.

The ranger noticed one of the victims wore no shoes or boots, Biessel said. Neither of them were dressed for the conditions, he said.

Friends of Danek did not want to comment publicly about her Tuesday but described her as a loving and unique woman. She identified herself as an artist on her Facebook page, where she featured her artwork, photos of cats, and a "Stay Weird" coffee mug.

Hagens was a pharmacist first licensed by the state in 2014, a state records database shows.

He worked at the Walgreens pharmacy in Wasilla from that year until July 2017, according to Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso.

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