Missing homeless man, 32, found dead

Dec. 4 edition of the Auburn Reporter detailed the frustration of family and friends.

The search for a missing and homeless local man ended sadly last week with the happen-chance discovery of his body under a bridge in Tacoma.

Sebastian Chase, 32, had been missing since Nov. 12 or 13. He was found Dec. 4. Family was notified after fingerprints positively identified him on the morning of Dec. 5.

Chase’s mother, Renee Cruickshank, said that a detective in Tacoma and the Pierce County Medical Examiner had informed her on Monday (Dec. 7) that they believe Chase had probably been dead for between one to five days.

Cruickshank said the medical examiner also told her there was no evidence of foul play or injury, and that she had not noticed anything remarkable in the autopsy to indicate that he had suffered a heart attack or a burst embolism or any like failure of his internal organs.

Chase, who had a long history of mental health challenges, was known to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. But the answer to whether any of those habits played a role in his death will have to wait on toxicology and other reports that are now in process, and likely months from completion and release, Cruickshank said.

“He came with nothing, nothing,” his mother said. “Not a single anything but himself. He came in with nothing, went out with nothing.”

The Dec. 4 edition of the Auburn Reporter carried a story about the frustration family and friends felt trying to engage the efforts and interest of local police in finding Chase.

That’s because — family and friends claimed — Chase was homeless.

Pacific Police Chief Craig Schwartz denied that charge on Dec. 2, telling the Auburn Reporter that Chase had lived on the banks of the Stuck River outside of city limits, but that nevertheless, his officers were actively engaged at the time in efforts to find him.

“Had it not been for law enforcers following a guy in the area with erratic behavior, they probably would not have stumbled upon Sebastian for some additional time,” Cruickshank said, adding that on Monday a detective had acknowledged to her that that would have been the likely scenario. “It was not a homeless guy who found him, but an individual’s behavior that got law enforcement into the area.”

Chase’s passing has left his family with many questions like: How does the community at large say farewell, or honor and remember the homeless when they pass?

“How can we help people see that it could be them, that many people are a paycheck away from being homeless,” Cruickshank said. “A brother, a son, a daughter, it could be yours. What safety nets do we have for mental health, and how do we increase the compliance rate when we let people out who are really not fully stable, and, no doubt, decline help?”