Missing Oak Harbor woman’s body found floating
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
December 30, 2011 · 3:28 PM
The search for a 31-year-old Oak Harbor woman who has been missing since November ended tragically this week when her body was discovered in the water off Port Townsend.
According to Oak Harbor Police Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner, Melissa Christine Ellis was found just before 3 p.m. Wednesday floating just offshore of a construction site. Her body has been positively identified and a Jefferson County coroner determined her cause of death as salt water drowning.
“There is no indication at this time that there was foul play,” Gardner said.
Ellis disappeared Friday, Nov 25, the day after Thanksgiving. She was last seen leaving her Oak Harbor home between 10 and 11 a.m. and reportedly told family that she was going to Coupeville or the beach, Gardner said.
The mother of three commonly rode on Island Transit buses and at times suffered from memory loss. Her cell phone was found on a sidewalk outside her home and she didn’t leave with her identification, Gardner said.
Since her disappearance, authorities investigated whether Ellis did in fact get on a bus but found no trace of her. They are still in the process of trying to ascertain whether she boarded a ferry.
Gardner said it remains unknown how Ellis ended up in Puget Sound off Port Townsend. However, it appears that her death was not a recent event, the detective said.
“I was advised she had been in the water for quite some time,” Gardner said.
The woman’s family, many of whom live out of state, were notified on Thursday following confirmation of Ellis’s identity. Her three children are all under the age of 10 and staying with family in Oak Harbor, Gardner said.
There are no preliminary indications that Ellis was intoxicated when she died but Gardner said standard procedure dictates that a toxicology screen be performed. The results usually take between four and six weeks to be returned.
Gardner said she knew Ellis personally, having met the young woman years before. The detective described her as a joy to be around and someone who will be missed.
“She was a good person,” Gardner said.
A fund for Ellis’ family was in the process of being set up at Whidbey Island Bank Friday afternoon. For details, inquire with the bank.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.