Authorities identify body found in river

Authorities have identified a body found in the Columbia River near Astoria in September.

MEGLER — Officials have identified a man found in the Columbia River near the Astoria-Megler Bridge in September.

Joe E. Abeyta, 65, of Cathlamet, was identified Oct. 5 via fingerprint analysis, Clatsop County Medical Examiner JoAnn Giuliani said.

Abeyta was found floating near the Washington state side of the river Sept. 21 after several 911 calls from drivers. He was pulled into a Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office boat and taken to the East Mooring Basin, but no personal items or forms of identification were found.

Several tests and missing persons searches turned up nothing, leading officials to release a full description of the body and clothes he was wearing.

Soon after the information was released, Chinook Observer reporter Natalie St. John emailed Wahkiakum County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow to ask if the office had any missing persons reports.

At the time of the email, Bigelow reported there was no one missing. But after reading the description, the blue vest found on the body caught the prosecuting office’s eye. Abeyta was known to frequently wear the vest, which belonged to his late wife.

A few days later, matching fingerprints confirmed it was Abeyta.

“It was actually the details in [the press release] that got somebody’s eye,” Giuliani said. “From there, we kind of knew it was him.”

Abeyta lived in a home alongside the river. He suffered from medical conditions that may have caused him to drown, Giuliani said.

No one has come forward with information about how he ended up in the river, but he was believed to be in the water roughly two weeks. Foul play is not suspected, Giuliani said.

“It was the public’s concern and participation that helped us rule in and rule out people this could be, and this is greatly appreciated,” Giuliani said.

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