Woman Dead for Weeks Before Her Body Was Found in Tacoma; Family Wants Answers, Justice


The decomposing body of a woman who'd suffered a broken jaw and stab wound to her face was found on Tacoma's Eastside earlier this month, her family and friends say.

The woman's mother, Debora Underwood, wants justice for the death of her 35-year-old daughter, Syretta Brown. She also wants to know how her body went undiscovered for so long. By the time it was found, Brown's remains had been decomposing for four to six weeks, Underwood told The News Tribune.

"Someone should have seen something and heard something," said Underwood, 58. "They claim that she was alone, so no one heard anything. My main objective is to make sure that whoever did this be caught."

Underwood said her daughter is survived by two children, ages 3 and 9.

Brown's body was found Nov. 13 behind a Tacoma Fire Department station near the intersection of East McKinley Avenue and East 38th Street, according to Underwood, who has spoken to police and officials from the Pierce and King County medical examiner offices about her daughter's death.

Tacoma Police Department confirmed it is investigating Brown's death, but a representative for the department could not confirm if police are investigating it as a homicide. Patrol officer Gary Wurges said police have not yet determined how the investigation will proceed.

An investigator told Underwood that police showed photos of Brown to people at a homeless encampment near where her body was found. People there recognized Brown but didn't know much about her.

A Pierce County chaplain called Underwood about Brown's death Nov. 16. She said officials were able to identify Brown using dental work and fingerprints taken from the remains.

Brown's body was taken to the King County Medical Examiner's Office to determine a cause of death, Underwood said. James Apa, spokesperson for Seattle and King County Public Health, confirmed Brown's body was there awaiting a forensic anthropology consultation.

Underwood said it had been a while since she spoke with her daughter. The last address where she knew Brown was staying was a boarding house near South Yakima Avenue and South 37th Street. Brown was kicked out due to behavioral issues. Underwood said her daughter struggled with mental health issues and drug use.

Brown had been picking up income assistance checks at the Share & Care House on McKinley Avenue, which provides social services. Police told her the last time Brown picked up a check was Sept. 29.

Ina Smith, 35, said she has known Brown since they attended 7th grade together. Brown was like a sister to her, she said.

Smith said she's frustrated that Brown's family has not been allowed to view Brown's body or see photos from where she was found. She feels like police are not prioritizing the case. She said she planned to get some people together to start sharing photos of Brown to see if anyone knows more about what happened.

"If they're not going to prioritize this case and look for the answers — I mean they're treating her like she was nothing," Smith said. "How was she behind this fire station in this open lot and no one is seeing her? None of this makes sense."