Divers find body of Freeland man in Anacortes lake

The body of a Freeland man was recovered from the bottom of an Anacortes lake Wednesday.

Cause of death for Jacob Whitaker, 28, is believed to be accidental drowning, but police said they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Anacortes Police Chief Bonnie Bowers said a woman who was with Whitaker when he drowned didn’t report it to police, but drove to Oak Harbor and told another woman who alerted authorities.

Anacortes police said they don’t believe foul play is involved, but added they suspect Whitaker may have been under the influence of drugs at the time.

“It appears that he drowned while trying to swim across the lake,” Bowers said.

Whitaker was at Whistle Lake Tuesday with a friend, Kaitlynn Raavel, 19, of Oak Harbor, on Tuesday, Bowers said.

Raavel told police she left Whitaker while he was swimming in the lake to walk her dog. She couldn’t find him when she returned but his clothing was still there.

“She said she didn’t see him go under,” Bowers said.

Raavel searched and yelled for Whitaker. She reportedly asked others at the lake if they had seen him, but didn’t ask for help, according to Bowers.

Raavel eventually drove to Oak Harbor and told a friend about what happened. It was the friend who called 9-1-1 at about 10:30 p.m.

Bowers said an officer spoke to the “third-party caller” that night and tried to speak with Raavel, but she was “hysterical” and refused.

Officers went to the lake in the dark and searched, but didn’t find Whitaker.

Raavel went to the police department Wednesday morning for questioning. She later showed divers from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office where she last saw Whitaker swimming.

Divers located his body a short distance away from the spot, in about 20 feet of water.

Bowers said investigators suspect that, based on Raavel’s statement, Whitaker may have consumed drugs prior to swimming. Toxicology results won’t be back for weeks.

Whitaker was well-known to law enforcement officers on North Whidbey. Eight years ago after he was convicted of pistol-whipping a man with a gun that went off and was imprisoned, but an Appeals Court later reversed the conviction after ruling that Whitaker’s defense counsel was ineffective.

A few years later he was arrested for shooting a car with an assault rifle. He was sent back to prison for malicious mischief and unlawful possession of a firearm charges.

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