ME: Wash. man’s Portland death now homicide

William “Cougar” Burleigh, 38, died 2 days after being found half-naked, unconscious on West Burnside

An undated photo of 38-year-old William Cougar Burleigh. (Portland Police Bureau)
An undated photo of 38-year-old William Cougar Burleigh. (Portland Police Bureau)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Three days after Crime Stoppers offered a $1,000 reward for information about the death of William “Cougar” Burleigh, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s office changed his cause of death from “undetermined” to homicide.

William “Cougar” Burleigh, 38, died of injuries “consistent with a fall,” the Oregon State Medical Examiner said after conducting an autopsy on Wednesday, Oct. 15, adding that there was “no evidence that Burleigh was assaulted.” However, Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed Friday afternoon that the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s office had in fact changed Burleigh’s cause of death to a homicide.

In their first release about Burleigh’s death on Oct. 16, the Portland Police Bureau said there was no indication that his death was a homicide; therefore, they did not immediately launch a criminal investigation.

Burleigh was found in downtown Portland across the street from the Portland Rescue Mission around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12.

Officers and medical personnel that responded to the location found him non-responsive and suffering from a head injury. Burleigh was transported to a Portland hospital where he later died on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

At the time, police said no witnesses approached the officers at the scene to offer information about how Burleigh ended up on the ground. Burleigh was found wearing a T-shirt and underwear, but was missing his jean shorts, wallet and phone, police said.

Detectives at the time said they did not know if Burleigh removed his pants earlier or if someone removed them after he was unconscious. Investigators said they later learned after the autopsy was conducted that Burleigh’s blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, indicating that “Burleigh was significantly intoxicated.”

Willamette Week reported that Burleigh, a Washington State employee visiting from Olympia, was barhopping before suffering a severe head wound.

At the time of the Oct. 23 report, Willamette Week reported police believed no crime had occurred and declined to release 911 calls related to the incident.

PPB homicide detectives, in cooperation with Crime Stoppers of Oregon, asked this Tuesday for anyone with information about Burleigh’s actions, or who was near the Portland Rescue Mission at 111 West Burnside, leading up to the events around 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 12, to come forward.

Tips, including those obtained from social media, can be submitted to Portland Police Bureau detectives, or anonymously via Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and tipsters can remain anonymous.

Leave a Crime Stoppers tip online, or text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP followed by the tip, or call 503.823.4357 and leave the tip information. Tips can be left in English or Spanish.

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