Missing Seattle man's body found in Columbia River

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) - Authorities are investigating the death of a man who was reported missing more than two years ago in Seattle and whose body was found 135 miles away in the Columbia River, east of the Cascade Range.

The body of 75-year-old Toshio Ota was found on Aug. 25, 2012 in the river about a mile south of the Interstate 90 bridge near Vantage. Authorities announced Tuesday the body had been identified as Ota.

An autopsy confirmed he died of a blow to the head. His death has been ruled a homicide, the Grant County Coroner Craig Morrison said.

Ota, a Japanese businessman, was reported missing March 28, 2011, some 20 days after anyone last had contact with him, Seattle Police Department spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said. While investigating his disappearance, police uncovered information that showed Ota may have been the victim of a crime and referred the case to homicide detectives, he said.

"We're investigating how the victim, missing from Seattle, ended up washing up in the Columbia River," he said.

Whitcomb declined to release additional details, citing the ongoing investigation.

In Grant County, authorities were unable to immediately identify the badly-decomposed body after it surfaced in the river. In November 2012, they sought help from other law enforcement agencies, stretching from western Washington to Montana, asking them to search open missing-person cases for a possible match.

Hundreds of cases were checked, and Seattle police concluded Ota might be a match. Dental records confirmed it.

"It's been a long, painstaking process, which we're glad we put the effort into so we can identify Mr. Ota and help Seattle Police investigate his death," said Kyle Foreman, spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff's Office.

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Information from: KVEW-TV, http://www.kvewtv.com/


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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