Police ID woman found dead in canal; no foul play suspected

Police ID woman found dead in canal; no foul play suspected

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima police now have more answers in the death of a woman whose body was found in a canal Thursday.

Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins identify her as 62-year-old Valerie Winnier. He tells KIMA the cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning. There was no other trauma and the death looks accidental.

Action News spoke with neighbors stunned by all the activity.

A call from canal workers brought police to a Yakima canal. Investigators came across the body of a woman caught in the canal's grate.

"It's too close," said neighbor Taylor Schwindt. "I'm sure people around here might be uncomfortable that they found something like this here."

Police say she was Native American and was likely in the water less than a day.

The discovery came just steps from the Harman Center.

"It's incredibly unusual. I have never seen a crime scene around here," said neighbor Karen Ireland. "It's the first time in three years."

Two firefighters suited up for the water to recover the body.

Meanwhile, investigators followed the canal upstream and found more clues.

Police say evidence collected at an area of the canal near Shopko suggests the woman may have drifted down to the spot where she was discovered.

After getting the body on dry land, investigators say there weren't any immediate signs of foul play. Instead, saying the evidence points to a possible drowning.

"I play croquet at that park right over by the canal, so it's sort of a shock to see all these police," Schwindt said.

Investigators told KIMA several officers were familiar with the woman but wouldn't elaborate.