Authorities believe they have found the remains of a missing Oregon woman who vanished while hiking with her boyfriend.
A property owner in unincorporated North Plains made the grisly discovery of human remains while clearing brush Saturday.
The medical examiner’s office is working to confirm the identity of the remains, but investigators with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office believe they belong to Allyson Watterson, 20, who was last seen alive in December 2019, according to a statement from authorities.
"Just based on the area that we’re in and the information that we’re seeing at the scene, investigators are confident that these are her remains. Obviously we can’t say for sure until we get confirmation from the medical examiner, but they were confident enough that we could give that notification to the family," Deputy Shannon Wilde told local station KATU.
Watterson disappeared just before Christmas and was last seen December 22, 2019 with her boyfriend Benjamin Garland, according to local station KPTV.
However, the reason why the couple was in the North Plains area remains unclear.
Garland’s father told deputies that his son and Watterson had been on a hike together in the area when Watterson got separated; however, authorities said Garland waited 30 hours after Watterson disappeared to report her missing, The Oregonian reports.
Watterson’s mother, Misty Watterson, has said that her daughter disappeared after the couple’s car broke down while they had been in North Plains to visit a friend.
Authorities have not announced whether they believe foul play was involved in her death.
Deputy Tony Morris told KATU the area where the body was discovered was thick with brush and would have been difficult to access.
“It would take some work,” he said. “You would want to be there. People aren’t just going to go on a walk and end up in this area. It’s just not going to happen.”
Wilde told the local paper that investigators plan to bring in the county Department of Land Use and Transportation to help clear some of the landscape in the area to process the scene.
“We’re actually having them in and trim back some areas because the brush is just so thick,” Wilde said. “It’s not easily navigated. Some of the bushes back in there are blackberry bushes that are bigger than houses.”
Just days before the remains were discovered, Misty Watterson posted an emotional message to Facebook describing her anguish over her daughter’s disappearance.
“The day she was taken out of my life will forever be the worst darkest day any mother could experience,” she wrote. “To whom is responsible for taking my daughter out of my life I want you to know that you took my life my breath my soul my everything has been ripped from me and my life and those lives around me that love and adore this child will forever be dark until she comes home to us.”
As time has gone on since her daughter disappeared, she said the family’s despair has only deepened.
“They say that time heals all wounds and I’m here to tell you that it’s just not true the time actually makes it more dark than you can even imagine,” she wrote. “To whomever is responsible for taking my child out of my life I want you to know that I will never stop looking for her I want you to know that she has the biggest most powerful and loving army of people behind her and we will never stop searching for her.”
After the discovery of the remains on Saturday, Watterson’s family has asked for privacy.
Her aunt Billy Macy issued a short statement to KPTV describing the family’s grief.
“Our family is deeply heartbroken. And the only person that can comfort us is no longer here,” she said. “I could’ve never anticipated the pain of losing her forever. This is not closure. We are thankful [to] the communities throughout the country for the unwavering support. It is difficult to know where to go from here.”
Garland is currently in prison serving a three-year sentence on charges unrelated to his girlfriend’s disappearance.
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