Frustration continues over the investigation into Lewis County homicide

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:17 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Not even a week after the Lewis County Corner’s office ruled 49-year-old Aron Christensen’s death a homicide, the county prosecutor’s office handed the case back to the sheriff’s office despite two suspects being referred charges.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said prosecutors wanted investigators to follow up on the case, meaning they are going to wait for forensic evidence, sent to a lab, to come back with results. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office declined to outline what that evidence was to protect the integrity of the investigation. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s office confirmed they sent the case back to the sheriff’s office, but declined to comment any further. Josh Jones, a long-time friend of Christensen. He said having his friend’s case sent back to investigators is frustrating, to say the least.

“It just felt like another slap in the face,” Jones said. “It felt like they were trying to stall and just waste time and it wasn’t a priority.”

RELATED: 2 accused after Portland hiker and dog found dead in Lewis County

Christensen was found dead at the end of August after friends reported him missing while they were camping near Walupt Lake in Lewis County. He and his dog’s bodies were both found on a trail. The family and friends claim the sheriff’s office told them Christensen died of a heart attack.

“I receive either a text or a phone call, I don’t even remember at this point, that Aron had died of a heart attack on a hiking trail and it floored me,” Jones said.

But at the end of October, the Lewis County Corner’s office found Christensen was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and his death was ruled a homicide. Last week the sheriff’s office announced recommended that 20-year-old Ethan Asbach and his 17-year-old girlfriend be charged with manslaughter and animal cruelty. Both Asbach and the teenage girl stated while hiking they heard growling noises and saw the eyes of what they believed to be a wild animal. Asbach told deputies out of fear, he fired a single shot from a gun toward the animal. A short time later the two checked the area and found the body of Christensen and his dog. The two said they continued to hike but took the wrong path before exiting the woods the next day.

“It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up,” Jones said.

Jones said that someone reached out to Asbach on Facebook messenger, asking if he killed Christensen. Asbach denied killing Christensen but did admit to killing his dog.

“At the very least if he’s on his social media account admitting to shooting the puppy, with more investigation to be done, there’s still the animal cruelty charge,” Jones said. “There could be some kind of arrest.”

Jones said after Christensen’s death was handled over the last three months, he feels like someone else should take over the investigation.

“Personally, in my opinion, I’d like the Washington State Attorney General to get involved somehow and get to the truth,” Jones said.

A spokesperson for the Washington State Attorney General’s office said under state law and constitution, the Attorney General’s office can not prosecute criminal cases without receiving and accepting a referral from a county prosecutor or the governor.