Officials seek identity of homeless woman who died in cold weather

'Jo Doe' was found dead near downtown Kirkland in January.(King County Medical Examiner's office)

KIRKLAND, Wash. – Homelessness isn’t just a problem in Seattle or Tacoma, the Eastside also has a sizeable homeless population.

And our recent cold weather has taken its toll.

The King County Medical Examiner’s office is asking for help identify a woman who recently died – investigators say she was homeless and passed away in the frigid cold.

“It’s exhausting to be homeless,” said Karina O’Malley.

O’Malley has been working as an advocate for the homeless for more than a decade. She helps run a safe parking lot program at Lake Washington United Methodist Church – it’s where those forced to live in their cars can find safety.

“We welcome women and anyone with children,” said O’Malley. “We just try to give people a safe place.”

The streets can be dangerous. Officials are currently looking for help identifying several people, some of them are homeless.

The number of unidentified people dying on the streets of King County are steadily on the rise, say officials.

Investigators say ‘Jo Doe’ died from hypothermia due to exposure. She was found on First Street in Kirkland back in January.

“We have no idea who she is,” said Dr. Kathy Taylor with the KCME office. “She had no identification.”

The medical examiner believes the victim is a mixed-race woman between 30 and 60 years old – only 5’5” tall and weighing about 150 pounds. They found a caesarean section scar on her abdomen, so they believe she’s a mother. Even more frustrating, Doe was found wearing a medical bracelet, but the facility and her legal name wasn’t listed.

“She was found outside the church where our emergency shelter was moving to,” said O’Malley. “It wasn’t there yet.”

But, breaking ground this spring near Lake Washington High School, a new shelter will offer services never available before on the Eastside.

“We’re building a building in Kirkland where families and women will be able to access services 24/7 in one place that will stay in one location,” said O’Malley.

It’s an effort to make sure another ‘Jo Doe’ doesn’t have to die in the elements when a shelter bed could provide safety.

“Whether they recognize the mouth, nose or eyes, we ask that they please give us a call if they have a suggestion on who this could be,” said Taylor.

If you know who she is, or have any information at all that you think could help identify her, call the investigations section of the King County Medical Examiner's Office at:
(206) 731-3232 ext. 5

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