Monday, April 27, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Body On Squak Mountain May Be Issaquah Hiker's

ISSAQUAH - King County authorities haven't identified the remains of a body found on Squak Mountain late yesterday afternoon, but a maroon-colored backpack police say was found with the bones is a possible link to an Issaquah woman who disappeared while hiking on the mountain last year.

Donna Barensten, 59, was carrying such a backpack when she disappeared while on a day hike with her husband, Ron, on May 4.

At the time, Barensten told police he had walked slightly ahead of his wife. When he lost track of her, he doubled back on the trail to find her but she had vanished.

At the scene this morning, King County Police spokesman Rob Barnett confirmed the remains are human, but officers have yet determine if they are those of a man or woman.

Searchers brought a bag containing a skull and bones from the mountain shortly before noon today. Bill Haglund, chief investigator for the medical examiner's office, said they had enough bones to make an identification after laboratory study.

Authorities point out that coyotes and other wild animals frequent the area, explaining why bones could be scattered. Police and search volunteers began combing the rocky area this morning, looking for other remains.

Ron Barensten said this morning he was told that a khaki-colored pair of shorts and a gold watch were also found, which match what his wife was wearing.

Barensten said he learned of the discovery last night but has not yet been to the scene.

Police say a lost hiker discovered the bones on the east side of the mountain at the foot of a 65-foot-high rock face. The area, about a quarter-mile from the Issaquah-Hobart Road near Southeast 113th street, is within roughly a mile of the area Barensten said he was hiking when his wife vanished.

The search last year, which was assisted by mountain-rescue teams, a helicopter, bloodhounds, German shepherds and almost 100 volunteers, lasted four days with no results.

A police official said today, though, that last year's search concentrated higher up the mountain and on the west side and did not include the area where the remains were found.

Blaine Petty, who lives on 38 acres near where the bones were found, said this morning that inexperienced hikers often end up in the road in front of his house because they come east down the mountain when they think they're going west.

Donna Barensten, a former nurse, was suffering from dementia, and had begun to deteriorate mentally before she disappeared, Barensten said last year.

If the remains are of his wife, "it would be a relief," said Barensten, a bio-engineer at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "But we're still not sure."

-- Times East bureau reporters Stephen Clutter and Katherine Long contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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