The two-week search for Jennifer Huston came to a close Tuesday, when her vehicle and body were found on a rural road near Sheridan. On Thursday, her death was ruled a suicide by asphyxiation by the Oregon State Medical Examiner's office.
Huston, 38, had been missing since July 24 when she disappeared from Newberg after running errands.
Huston's 1999 Lexus SUV was spotted outside of Sheridan about six miles down Southeast Gopher Valley Road, off Highway 18 around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by Vern Clemmer, 74, when he went out to chop wood on his 30-acre property. Spotting the vehicle, he said he wrote down the license plate because it seemed suspicious. When he returned to the house and told his wife Charlotte Clemmer what he saw, she said her heart fell.
Vern Clemmer said he smelled what he thought was a dead deer.
"I was going to look for a dead deer on the way back and now I'm glad I didn't," Clemmer said. He said he didn't investigate further because he got an "eerie feeling." He said the Lexus was parked roughly 50 yards in from the road and in an area that required the driver to unlatch a roped gate, pass a "No Trespassing" sign and re-attach the gate.Newberg-Dundee Police Department detectives have not established a connection to the property or the property owners, but there was no evidence of a crash, damage to her vehicle and the fuel tank was full, according to a press release from the NDPD.
"NDPD detectives and crime scene technicians from the Oregon State Police located the empty box of the sleeping aids that were purchased at the Rite-Aid pharmacy, and a gas receipt from the Circle Kay gas station in Newberg," according to the release. "Inside the vehicle detectives found a note addressed to members of Jennifer's family. Jennifer's purse and personal effects to include her cell phone, were also located in the vehicle. The cell phone was analyzed by our computer forensic detectives. There were no indications of nefarious actives."
Officials said based on the evidence, detectives and the medical examiner determined Huston had been deceased "fairly close to the time she was reported missing."
"The whole entire county was checked as best as it can," NDPD Capt. Jeff Kosmicki said. Police spent the past week following up on tips from as far away as Michigan and Texas. "And of course (the San Juan Islands). None of those were more significant than the other. I'm not really sure how one became more important than another. We received tips from all around this half of the nation."
Kosmicki described the scene as a driveway on private property, although not a main driveway and surrounded by a "thick canopy of trees."
Kallen Huston, Jennifer's husband, spoke to the media during two press conferences in an attempt to find his wife. He said she was acting erratically the night she left to run errands. Records show she went to an ATM before purchasing snacks and sleeping pills from Rite-Aid in Newberg.
"If you can come home, do," Kallen Huston said in a press conference last week. "The boys need you, I need you."
The "Find Jennifer Huston" Facebook page garnered nearly 45,000 likes since her disappearance and posted Wednesday "Thank you to everyone who has helped us search for Jennifer. We are grieving at this time and ask that we be given privacy."
The family also released a statement Thursday evening.
"Our hearts ache today. We have lost our first born child. We have lost a wife and a mother. We don't know what lead Jennifer to this dark place and to this end and perhaps never will understand this," the statement read. "We are incredibly thankful to family, friends, community and media for their searching, supporting and getting the information out that lead to locating Jennifer's car and finding Jennifer. ... This community really came together to support this effort as so many could relate to a mother of two small children and a husband desperately looking for his wife."
The family also thanked the NDPD for its efforts and the media for its assistance in spreading the message of their search. A celebration of life will be held in the future, although a date is not yet set. The Huston family said the information will be
Hillside Fellowship Church Pastor Zach Elliott helped organize a prayer session at the church last week and said the situation is heartbreaking, especially for the two young boys, ages 6 and 2.
"Just as a person and as a dad, I can empathize up to a point, but there are no real words to express the grief that has probably surrounded the family today," Elliott said. "I know from the Huston family, what they have said over and over, is just that they have appreciated the support and the love and the encouragement that they have felt from not only the community but the folks that were involved in searching -- all of those people."
He said anyone wishing to leave notes, cards or flowers for the family may do so at Hillside Fellowship or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elliott said those items would be passed along to the family at an appropriate time.