Alert and uneasy, commuters at the Mountlake Terrace Park & Ride have begun to carry guns, knives, Tasers and pepper spray after the body of commuter Cheryl DeBoer was discovered near the transit center.
There are few people at the Mountlake Terrace Park & Ride who aren’t aware of the disappearance of Cheryl DeBoer and the discovery of her body over the weekend.
Indeed, fliers with photos of DeBoer were posted on nearly every newspaper box at the busy commuter center Wednesday, and a Mountlake Terrace police car was parked in the lot.
DeBoer’s last known destination was the park and ride, before she was reported missing by her husband on Feb. 8. A search for the 53-year-old woman ended Sunday when her body was found in a culvert about one and a half miles from the lot.
Police have labeled DeBoer’s disappearance and death suspicious, and are investigating the case as a homicide. However, police have not ruled out other possible causes of death.
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An autopsy revealed small cuts on two of DeBoer’s fingers that appear to have been self-inflicted, police said Wednesday. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office is awaiting further test results before determining the cause and manner of her death.
Police have urged the public to “be conscious of their surroundings” and exercise caution when out walking.
“It’s very unsettling and confusing,” Meghan Guillen, of Mountlake Terrace, said Wednesday as she waited for a bus at the park-and-ride lot. “The police first said there was no need for public concern, then later said be cautious and vigilant. We’re all waiting to find out what happened.”
A few commuters said DeBoer’s death would not prompt them to alter their habits.
“I refuse to live in fear,” said one woman just as her bus arrived.
“I always have my guard up,” said another.
Many commuters said that, at the very least, they were heeding the police warning and being aware and attentive.
Henrietta Marshall, who commutes from Lakewood, Pierce County, to Mountlake Terrace, where she walks up the street to the bank where she works, said her children urged her to be cautious. “I’m very aware of what’s around me and who’s in front and in back of me when I’m walking,” she said.
Several also said they had armed themselves with guns, knives, pepper spray and Tasers.
“My boyfriend just bought me and his daughter a Taser,” said Lisa Hickok.
Erika Taylor, of Mountlake Terrace, is now carrying pepper spray. She said “everyone was jumpy” on Tuesday, the first workday after DeBoer’s body was found.
On the day she went missing, DeBoer parked outside of the park-and-ride lot, on a street with a park and a library that’s typically used by commuters when the lot is full.
Larry Pierce, who routinely parks where DeBoer’s car was found, carries a knife with him when he walks through the wooded trail commuters use to get to the buses.
“I always carry it,” he said. “There’s a lot of transients in the woods.”
Police say DeBoer was supposed to have met a friend at the park and ride on the morning of Feb. 8 to carpool to work at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The friend received a text from her that morning indicating she had left her work ID badge at home and, after fetching it, would catch a bus instead, police said.
When she didn’t arrive at work, colleagues called her husband, who reported her missing.
Her car was found that day in the 23400 block of 58th Avenue West, and investigators found bloodstains in DeBoer’s car on the passenger side, police said.
Police say DeBoer’s family has been cooperative and that her husband took a polygraph test last week and has been eliminated as a person of interest.
Police said Wednesday that a number of search warrants have been executed and a ”significant” amount of evidence had been collected, some pending lab and forensic analysis.
Police also reiterated that people need to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. “Do you see someone or something strange or out of place? If so, please call 911 and report it. Select parking spaces in well-lighted areas if possible and avoid parking in remote areas if you can,” police wrote in a news release.