After Shanan Read's body was found floating near Blake Island, her death was ruled an accident. Now authorities are re-examining the case.

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Shanan Read’s 5-year-old daughter tells people that her mommy is an angel in heaven. Read’s mother is convinced that Shanan’s longtime demons eventually led to someone taking her life.

Her headless body was found floating in Puget Sound in January 2006. But since then, answers have been few.

Seattle police have investigated, because Shanan Read’s last hours may have been spent in downtown Seattle. But they looked into the case as an overdose and handed it back to Kitsap County sheriff’s deputies. The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office initially told Read’s mother simply that the 33-year-old mother of four had taken a lethal amount of drugs when she died.

But after 2 ½ years, Read’s family remains convinced she was murdered. Now they have a detective on their side — and a new ruling from the coroner.

Kitsap County sheriff’s Detective Lori Blankenship says there’s evidence Read might have been intentionally given an overdose by a group of men in Seattle as early as 2005. The woman’s body may have been taken to a cabin in Kitsap County and left there for months before being put in Puget Sound, the detective said.

Blankenship, too, is still unsure whether Read’s death is just an overdose case.

“She made poor choices in her life, but she didn’t deserve to have her life taken,” Blankenship said. Finally, on Friday, the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office said that Read’s death has been ruled a homicide — by unknown causes.

So, for now, the case goes on.

Hooked on meth

When Diane Read last saw her oldest daughter, in the fall of 2005, she told her to “clean herself up.” Shanan always had been the most difficult of her three children, Read said.

Blessed with beauty and a wide, toothy smile, Shanan Read was her mother’s shadow until she was 13. But then Shanan started smoking marijuana and skipping school. She dropped in and out of rehab, and ran away from home.

Shanan Read used methamphetamine for the first time at 21. And she was hooked.

“She said, ‘Mom, when I want the meth, nothing matters: not you, not the kids,” Diane Read said.

“One time and you’re hooked, that’s what she told me. I always knew I would lose her.”

Shanan Read abandoned her four children and avoided her mother, brother and sister for months at a time. Then, on the afternoon of Jan. 18, 2006, Diane Read received a telephone call from Blankenship.

She knew the day she dreaded had finally arrived.

A boater had found Read’s body in Puget Sound near Blake Island. Her head washed up on a Port Orchard beach two months later.

And since then, Diane Read and her two surviving children have held out hope that they will someday know what happened in the final moments of Read’s life.

Searching for closure

In the months since her death, a witness told Seattle police that Read was “poisoned” while hanging out with a group of men inside a Capitol Hill apartment, according to a police report. The man told the police that Read’s body was then driven to a cabin in Manchester, Kitsap County, and left to decompose.

According to the Seattle police report, detectives went to the apartment the witness described. It had been cleaned up, but the apartment manager said she had seen blood all over the bathroom after the previous tenant was evicted.

Blankenship said officers were unable to get permission to search the Kitsap County cabin. She said the property is owned by the parents of the man who rented the Capitol Hill apartment that Seattle police officers searched.

No one has been arrested in the case.

“It’s still an open case,” Blankenship said. “The family would like to see closure, and we would like to solve it.”

Kathy Taylor, a forensic anthropologist with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office who was brought in to review the case, determined that decomposition and feeding marine animals likely caused Read’s head to separate from her body.

Blankenship says she is still investigating whether the woman was intentionally beheaded.

King County Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom, who has been assigned the case, said she has not reviewed the case recently. But she added that she would likely review any new evidence that is brought to her.

She said the case has been difficult because different police agencies have been involved in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Read’s family are all helping raise Shanan’s youngest daughter. The older children, who are 16, 11 and 10, are being raised by their fathers.

“Was she doing the wrong things? Yes,” Diane Read said of her daughter.

“But she was a person. She wasn’t a throwaway. I would never want this to happen to anyone else.”

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com