Officials with the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office are investigating how the body of a missing Milton-Freewater man was found at the scene of a fire early this morning. The fire occurred beneath the bridge crossing the Walla Walla River on Eastside Road in Milton-Freewater.
The fire was reported around 1:35 am according to police. Once it was extinguished, the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office arrived to investigate and discovered a body among the debris burned between two bridge abutments.
Officials are saying the fire made it difficult to initially identify the victim’s race and gender. Later, with the help of family, police were able to identify the victim as 29-year-old Marcos Gutierrez. Gutierrez had been missing for several days. Family and friends had taken to social media on Saturday to search for him.
The area where the incident occurred, often frequented by the homeless, was cordoned off by police much of the morning while they conducted their investigation. The motive behind the death is unknown but police are investigating the incident. Initial reports suggest that the death may be the first homicide of 2017 for Milton-Freewater.
Meanwhile, friends and family of the victim went to social media to express their condolences and to honor the life of their friend.
“Your beautiful smile and laugh will be missed,” one person said in a Facebook post. “Thank you for your smiles, laughs and good times you shared with me. I love you brother. May your spirit roam freely,” a family member posted after saying she was taking time away from social media to reflect.
Anyone with information concerning Gutierrez’s disappearance or death, is encouraged to contact the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office at 541-966-3600.
This is a developing story and we will update the story with further details as they are available.