After an 8-month King County Medical Examiner’s Office investigation into the disappearance and death of Enumclaw local Kristian Burnstad, no new revelations were reported.
According to King County Public Health Media Specialist James Apa, the Medical Examiner’s Office finished their investigation April 18, concluding they could find “no anatomical cause of death in the skeletal remains” and have officially listed the manner of death as “undetermined.”
This is likely unhelpful to law officers, who have been treating Burnstad’s case as a suspicious death since fall 2018, although an February 2019 NBC News article incorrectly states officers are treating it as a homicide.
“A suspicious death investigation means that there are inconsistencies with a natural death that we are investigating. These cases are open until we have exhausted all leads and then a determination is made as to whether we feel the case is a non-criminal or criminal incident,” a King County Sheriff’s Office sergeant said, adding that they cannot comment on an active investigation.
Burnstad, 33, went missing early February 2017. Small details of his disappearance can be put together from old missing person fliers, social media posts, and GoFundMe pages; reportedly, he was dropped off at his parents’ house at 1:30 in the morning and was expecting to be picked up. According to his parents, Burnstad never entered the house, and several of his belongings were found outside the home.
Over the next year and a half, it appears at least two people were questioned by police, according to the “Finding Kristian Burnstad,” Facebook page run by Stephanie Signani, a friend of Burnstad who has been described as his “self-appointed advocate and personal detective.”
This would include the person who dropped Burnstad at his parents’ home and one individual who was accused by some of harming him. Both appear to have taken polygraph tests; the former passed, while the results from the latter were inconclusive. However, the person who administered the test explained it was highly unlikely this person could have harmed Burnstad due to age and general health.
The first, and so far only, breakthrough came from an anonymous tip sent to the Facebook page, which led to the discovery of skeletal remains near Burnstad’s home in the 38800 block of 258th Avenue Southeast, north of the city and near the Bass Lake area. Nearly two weeks later, the remains were identified as Burnstad.
“I am very grateful that we did find him because it started to feel like we never would. So at least we had that type of closure,” Signani wrote in a Facebook interview. “Now Kristian and his family deserve justice. I believe the EPD and KCSO will continue to work diligently to give us answers and hold anyone involved, accountable.”
Burnstad’s family did not respond to a request for comment.
According to a KOMO News report, investigators couldn’t search the area Burnstad was found in when he disappeared because it was covered in several inches of water and is a “dense swamp” during the winter season, said the neighbor whose land it was where Burnstad was discovered.
After the remains were found, the Medical Examiner’s Office only said a cause of death would be determined “at a later date”. In a late December update, the MEO said a determination would be made in the spring.