KLICKITAT COUNTY — A Yakama Nation woman missing since her apartment in Wapato burned early Nov. 14 is believed to have been found dead in Klickitat County, authorities said Tuesday.
Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a call late Saturday morning reporting that a car was over the bank of State Route 14 near milepost 105, Sheriff Bob Songer said Tuesday afternoon.
When deputies arrived, the vehicle door was open and no one was in it, he said. His office sent planes overhead to try to locate the driver. Hours later, they found a body at the bottom of a cliff along the Columbia River, several hundred yards from the car, he said.
The person was deceased. While a positive identification is pending an autopsy, Songer said his department was 99% certain it was the body of Rachel Lorraine Norris, 38, who has been missing since her Wapato apartment burned in mid-November.
“It would appear, just on appearance, that the person went off the road,” Songer said. “We don’t know whether it was night or day because she’s been gone for some time, and we don’t know if she wandered (away from the car) and tried her way out and stumbled over the cliff or what happened, but it’s currently under investigation.”
Songer said there was no reason as of yet to believe there was any foul play, but that an autopsy would confirm cause of death. The body was transferred to Clark County for an autopsy. Officials also contacted tribal police, he said.
The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Friends and family spoke publicly about Norris’ disappearance in late November, encouraging anyone with information to come forward.
Norris was known as an independent woman who could handle life’s hurdles. She worked in various roles at Legends Casino and was a devoted employee. During time off, she would gather traditional foods, and she worked at the Central Washington State Fair each year.
Norris had saved up for her apartment on Third Street in Wapato while living with others, and had lived there for a few years.
When the fire began early on Nov. 14, residents were sleeping and Norris barely escaped, relatives said previously. Relatives said she was clearly shaken up by the event, and no one had heard from her since the afternoon of the fire.
On Tuesday, her aunt Kathryn Schwartz announced the discovery on social media and asked for prayer.
“My niece Rachel Norris has been found … She is deceased,” she wrote. “The family is asking for prayers and we all appreciate everyone’s blessings.”
She added that funeral arrangements were underway.