The families of two Enumclaw teenagers who were found dead Tuesday expressed gratitude to the community and law enforcement for their support, and said the young couple would be deeply missed.

Austin Grote, 18, and Aleecia McAskill, 17, disappeared Saturday, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office. The couple was last seen at 2:45 p.m. at a Safeway in Enumclaw, the sheriff’s office tweeted. Grote’s car was found near Mud Mountain Road.

Search teams started looking for the teens Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Officials found the bodies Tuesday morning near Mud Mountain Dam on the White River.

The King County Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday Grote died of asphyxiation from drowning. The medical examiner has yet to release information about McAskill, although police said there was no sign of foul play.

Frank Vareschi, McAskill’s father, said Wednesday that he was devastated.

“My mind’s going a mile a minute,” Vareschi said. “I don’t understand how it happened … I love my kids. I’m going crazy.”


Vareschi, who lives in Burien, said that while he didn’t live with his daughter, he would FaceTime her and check in with her often.

“She’s so funny,” he said. “Really tough. And she was an outdoorsy girl.”

Austin Grote’s father, Mark Grote, shared a statement on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.

“The Grote family wishes to thank the McAskill family, our friends, the Enumclaw community and the Seattle area for their tremendous support after our son Austin, and his girlfriend, Aleecia, went missing on February 1, 2020,” the statement said. “To the First Responders and the King County Sheriff’s Department, your urgent and tireless effort was incredible. Thank you so much.”

He also commented on rumors going around regarding “Austin’s car, the contents, their whereabouts and their cause of death.” Anyone speaking on behalf of the family is doing so without their knowledge or permission, he said.

“We hope that you will respect our privacy during this unbelievably traumatic time,” the post said. “There are no words to describe how much we will miss having Austin and Aleecia in our lives. We loved you both very much and we ache with the deepest sorrow that you are gone. But we draw incredible strength and comfort from our faith that this is not the end and our hope is anchored in knowing that we will see you again.”