MOUNT HOOD, Ore. (KOIN) — Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
That was the case for detectives investigating the death of 68-year-old Frank Wilson whose body was found at Trillium Lake last September.
What they thought was possibly a suicide turned out to be much more mysterious.
Wilson’s daughter Kim tells KOIN 6 News it appeared her father was having a mental breakdown before his death. She said he was distant and wanted to be left alone.
“I got in contact with his doctor… told him what was going on and how uncharacteristic the behavior was for him,” Kim recalled.
Doctors had recently diagnosed Wilson with some medical issues. At the same time, he struggled with the idea of retiring. Kim says he refused help at the time.
Wilson also had a concealed weapon permit and often carried a gun.
One day he left for work and never came home. His body was found on September 24 inside his parked pickup at one of his favorite places: Trillium Lake.
“Some of the initial opinions were that there was a potential that this was self-inflicted,” Clackamas County Detective Bill Terway said, noting that further investigations revealed some puzzling clues. “Wilson was shot multiple times in the chest and there was no firearm located in his vehicle or near his vehicle.”
State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson performed the autopsy on Wilson’s body. She recalled finding clues that led her to believe his death wasn’t a suicide after all.
“There was more than one gunshot wound and the location… was very atypical for a suicide,” Gunson said. “High in the left shoulder and sharply downward toward the back… that’s a very awkward motion. The window was down so it would have been easy to shoot somebody while they’re sitting in the truck.”
But there was another mysterious clue: Investigators found drops of blood outside the truck that formed a trail about 70 yards down the parking lot.
And a week after Wilson’s body was discovered, a weapon was found in the woods. Detectives learned it was Wilson’s own gun that was used in his death.
“It could be that somebody is walking away carrying the weapon that has blood on it,” Gunson said. “It’s hard to say how that blood trail got there.”
The handful of clues left investigators stumped and with very few answers. But there was one thing they were sure of: They knew exactly when Wilson died.
“Frank Wilson was wearing a Fitbit, a fitness tracker watch,” Detective Terway said.
He may not have known it, but Wilson left investigators with a vital clue.
“You can see at a certain time the heart rate stops… [it] monitors your heart rate,” Gunson said. “And it just ceases, so we know that’s the precise time he died.”
It’s the first time in Oregon forensic history that a fitness tracker has been used to determine a time of death. It’s the one certain thing in a case of so many unknowns.
As Wilson’s family struggles to comprehend the circumstances behind his death, Detective Terway says he’s confident the case will someday be resolved.
“People don’t hold secrets and when they do have secrets they normally want to tell somebody,” he said. “I think, eventually, we will find the answer. Whether it’s by accident or on purpose… I think we will find a resolution to this case.”
Is it murder or not? Investigators can’t rule out suicide at this point, although the evidence doesn’t seem to point that way. They’re also staying tight lipped about fingerprint evidence left on the gun that was found in the woods near Trillium Lake.