It could take a couple of weeks for Kent police detectives to unravel how a 28-year-old woman with disabilities ended up spending nine days inside a vehicle impounded in Burien earlier this month in near-freezing weather.

“There are a ton of questions about why and how it happened. It’s still under investigation as we work through the details,” Assistant Kent Police Chief Jarod Kasner said Wednesday.

Casey McNerthney, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said he doesn’t expect a case to be referred to prosecutors for review for possible criminal charges until sometime in March. He anticipated that detectives will need time to await results of the woman’s medical treatment before completing their investigation.

The woman’s sister called Kent police on Feb. 14 to report her missing, police said. The woman was last seen on Feb. 5 in a Kent gas station with her 45-year-old mother, who parked the car and then left while her daughter was still inside the vehicle, according to police.

During the investigation, police learned that gas-station employees had called Skyway Towing, and the vehicle, a 2004 Cadillac, was impounded in Burien.

Officers called the private tow company on the day she was reported missing and asked them to check the car, said Bon Pauza, general manager for Skyway Towing.


It’s common practice for employees to tow vehicles without checking inside, although the tow truck driver had looked through the windows before towing the vehicle, but didn’t see anyone inside, Pauza said.

After police called, a driver searched the Cadillac and found the woman lying on the back seat covered with clothes and other items, he said.

“We can’t really take credit for it,” Pauza said. “Police are the real heroes.”

Neither Kasner nor McNerthney would comment on the nature of the woman’s disabilities or her current medical condition, citing patient-privacy laws.

Her disabilities could well determine what charges could be filed in the case.

Under state law, a vulnerable adult is defined as someone 60 years of age or older with a functional, physical, or mental inability to care for him or herself; or someone age 18 and older who has a developmental disability; a court-appointed guardian; lives in a facility licensed by the state; receives in-home services through a licensed health care agency or self-directs his or her own care.

Mistreatment or abuse of a vulnerable adult is defined as “the willful action or inaction that inflicts injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment on a vulnerable adult.” Forms of abuse include sexual, mental, and physical abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect, and financial exploitation.