Friends: Hiker's disappearance is 'suspicious'

A photo of Kate Heuther with her dog, Heuther's usual hiking companion. »Play Video
A photo of Kate Heuther with her dog, Heuther's usual hiking companion.

NEAR BONNEVILLE DAM, Wash. – Searchers are racing against the clock to find a hiker missing since Thursday and presumed lost on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Katherine Heuther's friends on Monday even brought her dog - Heuther's usual traveling companion - to help detect the scent. No signs of the hiker were found, however, and the search was called off for the day around 5:30 p.m. to be resumed at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Meantime, the hiker's friends are seeking answers into what they call a "troubling" development. The Skamania County Sheriff's Office is investigating a claim that a man exposed himself to a woman on the same trail on the same day Heuther disappeared.

'It's her birthday today'

An avid hiker, Heuther told friends she was going for a quick hike Thursday around 3 p.m. She was reported missing on Saturday.

Searchers began looking for 23-year-old Heuther on Sunday. They have found one clue since -- a credit card receipt on the trail with her name on it.

The missing hiker's landlord and roommate David Danowski said he has searched many areas looking for her, including the Pacific Crest Trail where he said Heuther told him she was headed. Other friends also have left detailed notes, showing the areas they've searched.

"We're kind of getting to the point where we're heart sick," Danowski said. "At five days we're concerned, because of the weather condition. And it's her birthday today (Monday, March 8)."

A sheriff's spokesperson said at this point, investigators don't believe foul play was involved in Heuther's disappearance, and are operating under the premise that the hiker lost her way somewhere along the trail.

Helicopters circled Table Mountain throughout the day Monday while searchers checked roads off the beaten path. Searchers said the clock is ticking to find the 24-year-old hiker.

"It's just a matter of time before we figure out where she's at up there," said Undersheriff Dave Cox.

However, the unexpected hail and snow blowing through Portland late Monday afternoon sprinkled additional concerns.

"It (has) started getting cool," Cox said. "We think the temperature out there was 37 degrees with rain."

Suspicion sets in

Friends say Heuther's disappearance is unusual, as is the fact that searchers found a credit card receipt with her name on it on the trail.
    
"I'm concerned why her receipt would be up there two hours from the trail head," a friend said. "I'm just a little bit suspicious of it."

Friends have reported that Heuther was not one to litter, especially not on a wilderness hike.

Even more troubling is the report of a man exposing himself to someone on the same trail, Heuther's roommate said,. However, the sheriff's detectives have not been able to substantiate that report or find that man.

"As law enforcement, you're always curious about everything that goes on, (so) that is something that is on our radar," said Cox.

Cox said still believes Heuther is somewhere in the Gorge. If so, he said her chances of survival are still good.