The Washington County Sheriff's Office says a body found in North Plains, Oregon on Saturday, June 20, is believed to be 20-year-old Allyson Watterson, who disappeared when she got separated while on a hike with her boyfriend in December 2019.
According to a sheriff’s press release, the human remains were located on a property in the 15800 block of Northwest Corey Road in North Plains. The owner of the property called police at 4:53 p.m. after finding the body while clearing brush, deputies said.
Sergeant Danny DiPietro told Dateline that the location of the body, which is in the area where Allyson was last seen, and evidence found at the scene led detectives to believe that the body is Allyson Watterson. The Washington County Medical Examiner's office will officially identify the body.
Sergeant DiPietro said the sheriff’s office search and rescue team and detectives have been in the area on an active search for evidence.
“They’re on hands and knees, combing the area for any and every bit of evidence,” DiPietro said. “The brush out there is thick and we want to make sure we don’t miss anything that could help with the investigation.”
Deputy Shannon Wilde told the local paper, The Oregonian, that investigators plan to bring in the county Department of Land Use and Transportation to help clear some of the landscape in the area to process the scene.
“We’re actually having them in and trim back some areas because the brush is just so thick,” Wilde said. “It’s not easily navigated. Some of the bushes back in there are blackberry bushes that are bigger than houses.”
DiPietro said authorities have not announced whether they believe foul play was involved in Allyson’s death.
The initial investigation into Allyson’s disappearance was complicated by a changing timeline and inconsistent reports, according to Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Povolny.
Povolny spoke to Dateline in January for “Missing in America,” and said there was a gap of 30 hours between the time Allyson was last seen and when she was reported missing.
Allyson was last seen on Sunday, December 22, 2019, by an unnamed homeowner in that wooded area of North Plains, Oregon, Povolny told Dateline.
The homeowner told authorities that Allyson and her boyfriend, Benjamin Hunter Garland, asked to use the phone because they had been in a car accident. They then left.
Another homeowner in the same area told deputies they found Ben sleeping in their truck early Monday morning. Ben told the homeowner his friends left him and he was trying to take cover from the rain. The homeowner drove him home. Ben’s father, Don Garland, later told authorities that when he got home from work, Ben told him he had gotten separated from Allyson while they were in the woods.
Don Garland reported Allyson missing around 5 p.m. Monday, about 30 hours after she was last sighted. He told authorities he believed they had been hiking, but investigators could not confirm the reason they were in the woods. Don Garland could not be reached for comment.
After receiving the report, deputies searched the wooded area of North Plains and located a truck that had been reported stolen. Ben is currently in prison serving a three-year sentence on charges unrelated to his Allyson’s disappearance.
Allyson’s mother, Misty, told Dateline she doesn’t know where the hiking story came from, and said her daughter and Ben were visiting a friend who lived in the area that weekend. Friday, December 20, was the last day Misty saw her daughter.
Sergeant DiPietro told Dateline Allyson’s family has been notified of the discovery and are asking for privacy.
Just days before the remains were discovered, Misty posted an emotional message on Facebook about her daughter’s disappearance.
“The day she was taken out of my life will forever be the worst darkest day any mother could experience,” she wrote. “To whom is responsible for taking my daughter out of my life I want you to know that you took my life my breath my soul my everything has been ripped from me and my life and those lives around me that love and adore this child will forever be dark until she comes home to us.”
Allyson’s uncle, Trevor Macy, posted a statement on Facebook:
“We are broken for the moment and there is a space that can never be filled in our lives but she lives on in our hearts.”
Anyone with information that could help the investigation is urged to call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 503-846-2700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.