In life, Aron Christensen was someone who brought people together, whether it was through his music or the simple act of frequently checking up on his friends.
In death, the love Christensen’s friends and family have for him brought a group of 20 or so people from the Portland area to the rainy corner of West Main Street and Southwest Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis on Saturday to seek justice for their friend and his dog.
The family and friends of Christensen have told The Chronicle they are frustrated with a lack of information from authorities and the failure to arrest a suspect in the case following Christensen’s death.
A hiker found Christensen, 49, of Portland, dead next to his 4-month-old puppy, Buzzo, on the 101 trail 3 to 4 miles away from Walupt Lake just after 3:55 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Since then, Christensen’s family and friends reported receiving very little information, including some conflicting statements, from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office about its investigation into the two deaths.
Family and friends of Christensen also claim the sheriff’s office instructed them not to go to the media due to concerns the attention would jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
But, frustrated after two months with no apparent action in the case, some of Christensen’s friends agreed to go on the record with a Chronicle reporter in September, with the family putting out a formal statement shortly after.
A few days later, the Lewis County Coroner’s Office reported Christensen’s cause of death as a gunshot wound to the chest.
“The family was told multiple times not to go to the press and nothing ever happened. The moment we did go to the press, when we finally became frustrated, that was when things started to happen,” said Micah Braden, a friend of Christensen who was at Saturday’s protest.
Christensen’s family and friends were hopeful when sheriff’s office referred first-degree manslaughter and animal cruelty charges against the two suspects — Michael Asbach, 20, of Tenino, and a 17-year-old girl from Rochester — last month that the deaths of Christensen and Buzzo would soon see justice, but the prosecutor’s office ultimately referred the case back to the sheriff’s office for further investigation.
As of Monday morning, no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made.
“With the bouncing back and forth between the sheriff's department referring the case to the prosecutor and the prosecutor sending it back, we just want them to know that something has to happen,” Braden said of the reasoning behind Saturday’s peaceful protest. “We think it's important to come out and do it this way because we don't want to attack the community, we don't have a problem with anybody in this community … we want justice for Aron.”
Some of Christensen’s friends told The Chronicle that, at best, they believe the slow movement of the case and the lack of communication from the sheriff’s office is because the sheriff’s office made a mistake in its investigation.
At worst, they said, they suspect a deliberate coverup.
“The question now is, is it incompetence that they’re covering up? Or does it go deeper than that?” Eric Mins asked.
The frustration that permeated Saturday’s protest stemmed from a place of deep love for Christensen, who has been described as a talented and reliable bandmate, an avid outdoorsman, an amazing chef, a good listener, a beloved uncle and a dedicated friend.
“Aron was one of my childhood friends and just hearing what happened, we need to be out here letting people know,” Jonathon Maxwell Stanaford said of his reason for joining Saturday’s protest.
One of Christensen’s longtime friends who joined Saturday’s protest, Mike Heath, said “I just need to be here for one of my best friends, to represent his family, to try and get some answers for them. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. And I love my friend and I miss him.”