Death Is 'Suspicious'


ROCHESTER - The body of a nude, dead female found at a gravel pit in Rochester on Monday morning has been identified as that of Karen L. Bodine, 37, a Thurston County resident.

The sheriff's office was not calling it a homicide, "but very suspicious," Thurston County sheriff's Lt. Chris Mealy said Monday.

Bodine's body was discovered lying on the ground about 25 feet off Littlerock Road, less than a quarter of a mile east of Sargent Road.

Detectives found no obvious injuries or wounds that could have caused her death. Mealy said there were no indications of a sexual assault.

Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said an autopsy was scheduled for 10:30 this morning.

After that, "we'll know a lot more," Mealy said. "At least we'll know if she was murdered or something else."

A PASSING MOTORIST called 911 at 8:45 a.m. Monday. Mealy said detectives preliminarily believed somebody dumped the body there sometime after dark the night before, and suspected she'd died not long before.

"If she'd been there in the daylight, somebody would have seen her," Mealy said. "Obviously somebody wanted her to be found."

A team of Thurston County detectives spent the morning at the scene along a heavily wooded, 50-mph two-lane county road. A search of the area turned up no clothing, purse or wallet, according to Mealy.

Bodine's cousin, Fred Bodine of Rochester, said he didn't know his cousin spent time in the area. She has parents and a brother who live in Olympia, and she graduated from Tumwater High School, he said.

Fred Bodine had actually driven past the site on Monday morning, heading home sick from work, and saw all the patrol cars and activity, he said. He watched the coverage on the television news and then got a telephone call from his mother with the bad news, he said.

"Nothing like homicidal violence has ever happened in our family," he said. "It's crazy."

FOR ABOUT FOUR HOURS on Monday morning, yellow police tape blocked off the flat open area to the south of Littlerock Road. It is an unused county gravel pit, according to Mealy. Scotch broom and evergreen seedlings grew around the flat spot amid discarded trash, including an old car seat.

Karen Bodine's body lay on its back, her head resting on the seat.

Mealy said there were suspicious marks all over her body, but he wouldn't attempt to describe them in more detail.

Detectives took her fingerprints and a digital photograph in an attempt to identity her. The body was thin, with short, spiky, bleached-blonde hair, tinted pink, Mealy said.

Later on Monday, Mealy said, an emergency dispatcher recognized the description as that of someone a Lacey police officer was asked to check up on the day before. Bodine wasn't in trouble; it was more of a check on her welfare, Mealy said. The detective contacted Bodine in Lacey, but Mealy didn't have specific details about where.

The lieutenant said he didn't know where Bodine lived most recently. He said she was not living with her parents, but had stayed with friends in north Thurston County.

She's been in trouble with the law before, but not for anything violent or very serious, according to Mealy.

AT THE CLOSEST HOUSE to the north, resident Chuck Wilson said the natural area is known for deer and duck hunting. The Black River runs behind his home. While it's sparsely inhabited, he's come across strangers smoking marijuana in his driveway, and he called the entrance to the gravel pit a trouble spot where sometimes stolen cars are left.

"They're always dumping stuff there," Wilson said. "I don't know what they're gonna do about it."

Littlerock Road runs to the northeast to Littlerock, there providing access to Interstate 5. To the southwest are Mima Mounds and the Capitol Forest. Travelers use the route to get into Rochester and the Lucky Eagle Casino, Wilson said.

The scene is four miles north of U.S. Highway 12.

On Monday morning, Damon Danforth walked down from his house on the corner of Sargent and Littlerock roads.

"It's a pretty good neighborhood and area," Danforth said. "This is pretty crazy."

He called his wife on his cellular telephone, and she told him she recalled seeing a small, brown, early 1980s car parked at the spot about 7:50 a.m. that morning, Danforth said. He gave detectives her telephone number, he said.

Before Mealy, the head of the Thurston County detectives unit, went home for the day, he had 17 phone messages, he said, from as far north as Everett and as far south as Kalama, from folks wondering if the as-yet unidentified body was their loved one.

Among the detectives' first task on Monday was to check with their own and neighboring counties to learn if anyone knew of a missing woman.

The Lewis County Sheriff's Office said it had no outstanding missing person cases.

In nearby Grays Harbor County, Undersheriff Rick Scott said his office had no missing women.

In 1991 and two years later, two women who were slain were found on the same logging road, Scott said. One case was closed with a guilty plea and the other may have been related to the same suspect, he said. Both victims lived high-risk life styles, Scott said.

"It's been a long time since we've had something of that nature, and I'd like to keep it that way," Scott said.

Sharyn L. Decker covers law enforcement, local fire departments and the courts for The Chronicle. She may be reached by e-mail at, or by telephoning 807-8235.