STEVENSON, Wash. – A hoax received Friday by KATU and another Portland TV station has frustrated investigators at a time when Kate Huether’s family is grieving, Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox told The Columbian.
About 2 p.m. Friday, KATU received an anonymous call that Huether had just been seen emerging from the trail head she entered March 4. KATU's assignment desk then called the sheriff’s office.
Officers checked, and now say that the report was a hoax.
Cox told The Columbian that the news crews were right to call the sheriff’s office. However, he criticized the caller – who he said made the case even more difficult. The caller has not yet been identified.
“There are people out there who think it’s fun to do this sort of thing,” Cox said. “I can’t believe someone would do such a thing. That’s absolutely heartless.”
Despite rumors, Cox said, the case is not considered a homicide.
Huether, 24, was last heard from on the afternoon of March 4 when she sent a text message to a male friend that she was going hiking on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail just north of the Columbia River, near Bonneville Dam. She was reported missing Saturday.
According to a statement Cox issued Friday afternoon, Huether’s friend who received the text – Jason Rapp of Portland – was questioned by Portland police. The statement said Rapp "voluntarily met with investigators" Thursday. After "an extensive check into his background" and verification of information obtained during that interview, investigators determined Rapp is not a suspect in Huether’s disappearance.
Deputies and rescuers searched the trail area on foot and from the air early this week but found nothing except a credit card receipt with Huether’s name on it. Her vehicle was parked at the trail head.
Another hiker in the area the day Huether disappeared reported she had come across a man who had exposed himself. Deputies tell us they have been unable to confirm the report. However, here is the eye witness account:
Cox told The Columbian that as of Friday afternoon, “We have not received any more creditable information to warrant putting resources back out into the field.” The search was officially called off March 10.
Heuter's family and friends continue to search the trails on their own on Saturday, hoping for some sign – nine days after her disapearance – of the Kate they know and love. Click the video tab above this story to see KATU Reporter Joe Raineri's coverage of Saturday's search efforts, drawing people from throughout the Northwest to search the Pacific Crest Trail.