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Monday, August 24, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Body Found A Block From Facility For Adult Care -- Woman, 82, Wandered Three Times Previously

A woman found dead yesterday one block from the adult-care home where she lived had wandered from the facility three times previously, said the home's operators.

The body of Laura Wilcox was found by a neighbor yesterday, almost two days after she walked away from the care home in the 3900 block of Northeast 100th Street.

Results of an autopsy were to be released today.

Helicopters and dog teams were deployed in a two-day search for Wilcox, 82, who had suffered several strokes and had symptoms similar to patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Wilcox's body was found on the porch of a home seven houses down from the care facility where she lived with the Lilley family and three other senior citizens.

"About 4 p.m. Friday one of our residents said, `Laurie just went out the front door,' " said Jeri Lilley.

"By the time I got out there," said Jim Lilley, "she was gone."

IT'S HAPPENED BEFORE

Wilcox had lived at the home since March and had walked away three other times, the Lilleys said.

The first time, she made it to a tavern several blocks away, and the second time she walked up to a major intersection at Northeast 95th Street. The third time, she wandered to Matthews Beach State Park on Lake Washington.

The Lilleys' home is equipped with an alarm that sounds when the front door is opened. In warmer weather, however, that wooden door is left ajar and a glass outer door is used.

"It has a lock on it, but the residents can figure out how to open it," said Jim Lilley.

The Lilleys have operated adult-care family homes for 10 years, including three years at their Northeast Seattle location.

The Lilleys praised police response in the incident. Bicycle patrols and regular car patrols helped out, in addition to the King County helicopter and various police dogs. Even a bloodhound was used, police said.

The Lilleys believe that Wilcox's body was missed because the porch where she lay is above street level and obscured by trees. It is unclear whether the home, which is for sale, is vacant.

Wilcox was a retired nurse who worked at Harborview Medical Center and the King County Jail.

She was originally from Canada and has two surviving daughters, one in Canada and one in Seattle.

A WORLD TRAVELER

Although the strokes had slowed her in recent years, Wilcox had spent much of her retirement traveling the world, including trips to China and Mexico.

"She was a good-looking woman, a smart woman - we saw the Great Wall of China together," said Marion Strout, 75, a longtime friend and traveling companion. "I'm glad she didn't have to suffer for years and years, and that she was loved and not abandoned."

Strout recalled fondly how Wilcox carried a small sketch book on her journeys - she called it her "memory book" - and painted in it small watercolors of various sights she saw.

On the wall of her room at the adult-care home hangs one of her paintings. It is a watercolor of a yellow flower. It is signed "Laurie."

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

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