PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The suspects in the death of a Portland hiker and his puppy in August 2022 will not face manslaughter or animal cruelty charges related to their deaths, according to the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Lewis County says there is not enough evidence to charge the suspects, but loved ones of Aron Christensen say they believe more than one agency dropped the ball in this case.
“Absolutely surprised and devastated,” said Annie Bamberger, a friend of Christensen, who was on the camping trip with him where he died. “It’s just amazing that somehow, two lives are gone and there’s no accountability. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Nearly eight months after Christensen and his puppy Buzzo were found shot to death while on a camping trip in Central Washington back in August 2022, Lewis County officials say the suspects — who were interviewed in the days following the deaths — will not face felony charges.
“There’s those waves of shock and awe that this is really happening like how it’s happening and then, I’m losing faith in systems,” said Bamberger.
Two months after Christensen and his dog were found on a trail near Walupt Lake, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office recommended charges of manslaughter and animal cruelty for the suspects after police said the two reported hearing what they thought was a wild animal. Police say in the interview, they reported yelling at the animal for a while before firing a single shot, later discovering Christensen and his dog, before continuing on their hike late that night and leaving the woods the next day.
But after months of back-and-forth between Lewis County agencies, Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer says there’s not enough to file charges.
Hundreds of pages related to the deaths detail the investigation and what may have gone wrong, like the responding deputy to the scene of Christensen’s death saying he “did not need detectives” to come to the area, reports detailing not going back to the scene to collect evidence until three days later. There were also suggestions that Christensen’s wound may have been caused by a tree limb or stick, and notes from the forensic pathologist that he may have had a heart attack.
The investigation shows some witnesses from the campground were not interviewed until three months later in November and that the initial tools used in Christensen’s autopsy may have cross-contamination with those used to examine the dog.
When asked on Tuesday about the lack of charges, a representative with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6, we would “need to confirm that information, and any explanation, with the prosecutor’s office. Our agency does not have a comment, statement, or release.”
Christensen’s friends say he was the steady guy in their group, and now, they will be that steady force for him as they fight for justice.
“All along the way, everybody has. everybody has dropped the ball,” said Bamberger. “With all that knowledge, plus some, I just don’t understand why they’re not prosecuting.”
The prosecuting attorney has not told KOIN 6 if there are plans to pursue any other charges with the suspects.