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Sunday, April 14, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Discovery Of Body Parts Haunts Towns Along Hwy. 2 -- But Many Folks Still Feel Safe

SKYKOMISH RIVER VALLEY - Life is surreal in this land of jutting peaks, pristine landscapes and wild rivers, where the beauty of nature is juxtaposed with the brutality of mankind.

Many who choose to live in the towns along Highway 2 don't scare easily. They are independent people, and they've long circulated rumors about bodies hidden in deep ravines and off isolated mountain logging roads.

Every couple of years, those rumors become fact. During one five-month stretch of 1988, the bodies of three murdered women were found in the Gold Bar and Index areas. Their killer or killers were never caught.

Things are more twisted this season, however. Instead of finding bodies, people now are finding body pieces: a man's leg near Startup; a woman's skull and another person's scalp near Monroe.

"We've had weird people come out here, and weird things go on. You talk about bizarre. Can you imagine, not only kill somebody but cut them up? You have to really hate somebody," said Mickey Miller of Gold Bar.

"I'd sure hate to go fishin' and catch a leg," she said. "I would probably never fish again."

It was a fisherman who discovered the severed leg Feb. 28 along the Skykomish River near the tiny community of Startup. Authorities said it came from a Caucasian man who probably stood 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall and wore a size 10 or 11 shoe. The leg probably had been dumped three or four weeks earlier, authorities said.

Many are haunted by images of that discovery, realizing they easily might have made it themselves.

Kathy and Craig Dillman and their two children live at the 3 Rivers Mobile Home Park, about two miles downriver from the Snoqualmie River ravine where the skull and scalp were discovered two weeks ago.

"We fish down there," Kathy Dillman said, nodding her head toward the nearby river. "Just the thought of pulling out a body part - yeeech."

A few years ago somebody did find a dead body nearby, she added.

"Somebody was out in their boat fishing and saw it stuck in a log jam," she said.

Connie Weiss, who lives about two miles east of Gold Bar, remembers the week in June 1987 when a man's dismembered body was found in a ditch near her house. That murder remains unsolved, too.

"It gets to where you don't want to take a ride by yourself unless your doors are locked and your gas tank's full," she said.

Another dismembered body, found in March 1990 at a Kittitas County tourist viewpoint, was identified this week as that of Diana Hopkinson, 22, of South Seattle. Her body parts were scattered in plastic bags off Interstate 82 near Ellensburg.

Snohomish detectives remain tight-lipped, refusing to speculate about connections among the unsolved dumpings of murder victims in the river valley since 1985.

"It is a very remote area, it's honeycombed with old and abandoned logging roads," said sheriff's spokesman Elliott Woodall. "People who want to do things in a clandestine manner have easy access to it because you've got I-5 and Highway 2 that link up very conveniently."

The latest victim, Sun Nyo Lee, was identified earlier this month from dental records after her skull was found off High Bridge Road. The 36-year-old Bothell woman disappeared June 25.

Still, many Index residents feel safe in their small haven.

"This is so docile and quiet," said David Marshall, who co-owns Index's historic Bush House. "I find it more frightening to walk from Fifth and Pine down to First and Pine at Pike Place Market. That's scary; there are all these gang members now."

Jo Jacobson, owner of Index General Store, echoed Marshall's words.

"Since this is such a small town," she said, "everybody keeps their eyes on each other. Whereas in Seattle, you could have convicts and drug dealers living next door to you for years and never find out about it.

"I think most of what they've found in the past are bodies that are brought in from the outside."

That's not reassuring for Helen Grovdahl, a resident of the Startup area.

"When you stop to think of these people murdering people, and driving within a mile of your house . . ." she trailed off, and grimaced.

"There's getting to be too many of 'em. I don't dwell on them all, 'cause if I did, I'd go bananas."

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HISTORY OF BODIES FOUND

July 7, 1985 - Molly Purdin, 21, Kennewick, was found dead on Index-Galena Road eight miles northeast of Index. She was bludgeoned to death and her body dragged 60 yards into the brush. Murder unsolved.

June 7, 1987 - An unidentified Caucasian man's body was found dismembered two miles east of Gold Bar. Unsolved.

Nov. 24, 1987 - Jay Cook, 20, British Columbia, was found strangled under High Bridge near Monroe. His girlfriend, Tanya van Cuylenborg, 18, was found shot to death near Alger, Skagit County. Unsolved.

May 8, 1988 - Hazel Gilnett, 68, a transient also known as Jennifer James, was found strangled in a wooded area three miles east of Gold Bar. Unsolved.

June 29, 1988 - Jennifer Anne Burnetto, 32, Tacoma, was found stabbed to death eight miles east of Index near Index-Galena Road. Unsolved.

Oct. 22, 1988 - Robin Maria Kenworthy, 20, Seattle, was found two miles north of Index. Her nude body was found partially buried beneath a pile of logs in a clear-cut area. Unsolved.

Aug. 25, 1990 - Michelle Koski, 17, Seattle (Lake City), was found near the intersection of Highway 522 and Echo Lake Road near Maltby, southwest of Monroe. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Unsolved.

Feb. 28, 1991 - The severed right leg of a Caucasian man was found along the Skykomish River near Startup. Unsolved.

March 26, 1991 - Three pieces of scalp attached to an ear and brown curly hair were found off High Bridge Road in a Snoqualmie River ravine southwest of Monroe. Unsolved.

March 27, 1991 - Sun Nyo Lee, 36, Bothell. Her skull was found by sheriff's detectives searching the area where the scalp pieces were found. Unsolved.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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