A body found Sunday in Brazil has been identified as former Washington State University basketball star Tony Harris, the FBI in Seattle...
A body found Sunday in Brazil has been identified as former Washington State University basketball star Tony Harris, the FBI in Seattle said today.
FBI Special Agent Robbie Burroughs said the identity had been confirmed through dental records.
His wife, Lori Harris, has been waiting for the official identification since Sunday, when a body believed to be that of Harris was found next to a tree near a lake on Brazilian Army property near the small town of Formosa in central Brazil, 50 miles east of Brasília.
“I knew it was him,” she said today. Lori Harris, who is expecting a baby next month, said she is doing “as well as can be expected” with the news.
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“There’s not really anything to say at this point,” she said.
Harris, a former Garfield High basketball player, had been missing in Brazil for nearly two weeks.
According to police, there were no signs that other people had been in the area where he died.
Harris, who was found wearing a T-shirt, pants, and white and blue basketball shoes, had no money or documents on him. Because of the state of decomposition, Harris could have died as long as 10 days ago, said Pedromar Augusto de Souza of the Formosa police.
De Souza also said there were no signs of a struggle, but that the initial search of the area was at night. Police were to return to the area during daylight hours.
Police continue to say they believe suicide is the most likely cause of death, but they haven’t ruled out homicide.
“People really can’t believe that this is a suicide. It’s a hard pill to swallow if that’s the case,” said Jon Hall, a Garfield High School graduate who went to school with Harris.
“He’s a leader, he is a charismatic, very talented athlete… He’s a source of nothing but pride for the Garfield community,” said Hall.
Lori Harris said in an interview last week that her husband was not depressed, as local Brazilian media had reported.
In the days after he was reported missing, Harris was reported seen in a small town outside Brasília, Brazil’s capital, asking passers-by for food, according to police officials in Brazil.
Some of the people mistook Harris for a “hobo,” police said.
People in the town of Bezerra, 12 miles from where Harris’ body was found, told police they saw his photo on national television and then called authorities to say that he resembled someone they took for a homeless person. Lori Harris, who lives in Kent, said recently that only days after arriving there her husband called her and had talked of being anxious and wanting to come home.
Harris had been under contract to Universo/Brasília basketball team, the Brazilian League champion this year. He played two games in the South American Clubs Championship, which was held in Brasília Oct. 31 through Nov. 4.
His teammates were surprised by how poorly he played because he was a star player a few years ago with Unit/Uberlândia, the 2004 champion of the Brazilian League.
The club reported him missing Nov. 5 to police in Brasília. On Wednesday, he was reported missing to the American Embassy.
On this tournament trip, he didn’t seem quite right, according to a teammate who was interviewed by a local television station. The teammate said Harris was emotional and cried right before he disappeared.
After a game on Nov. 3, Harris tried to fly out of the Brasília International Airport, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have his passport, police said.
In Brazil basketball tournaments, all players have to show identification to tournament authorities. Team officials had his passport for that reason.
After failing to get on a plane, Harris was taken to a bus station by the teammate and took a bus from Brasília to the city of Goiânia, about 130 miles away.
In Goiânia, he visited a friend.
From there, he apparently decided to take a taxi to meet another friend in Natal in the northeast part of the country 1,676 miles away. The cab fare was $1,417, but he gave the taxicab driver $423 at the beginning of the ride.
When the taxi driver stopped to get gas, near Bezerra, Harris took off, leaving behind his bag, notebook and cellphone.
Those items were handed over to police in Brasília.
Freelance writer Adalberto Leister Filho contributed to this report from Brazil.