Dead Palmer man's brother: 'We could have found him' with faster help
A trooper dispatch Monday night said an autopsy conducted at the state medical examiner’s office showed 30-year-old Keith Aumavae was killed by “blunt force trauma consistent with impact from driving a car off of a cliff.”
Friends and family have been looking for Aumavae since he was last seen on Oct. 19. Troopers said his body was found Thursday in his Chrysler Sebring, at the base of a cliff overlooking Cook Inlet near Knik-Goose Bay Airport.
“There were no suspicious injuries or defensive-type wounds observed on Aumavae’s body,” troopers wrote. “No foul play is suspected at this time.”
Toxicology results on Aumavae won’t be available for several weeks, according to the dispatch.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters didn’t have any further details Tuesday on the wreck that killed Aumavae.
“As far as we can tell it wasn’t witnessed, and we don’t know what his intentions were,” Peters said.
Aumavae's brother, Junior Aumavae, said the state Department of Public Safety had lagged in issuing a Silver Alert missing-persons notification for the case, adding that "our family was met with barriers from the beginning."
"We reported that he was missing on [Oct.] 27th; it wasn't until five days later that they issued the Silver Alert, (for) which Keith met all the criterias," Junior Aumavae said. "He was over 18, he was lost on foot or mobile vehicle, he obviously had a mental disorder that was deteriorating his mental health -- the only problem was the state didn't recognize him as meeting all those criterias, and then issuing a Silver Alert."
Junior Aumavae emphasized that in his view, his family "didn't get the necessary help" to find his brother.
"We feel, with those five days we've lost when we put in the initial report, we could have found him," Junior Aumavae said. "Within those five days, he could have been alive, waiting for us to look over the edge and find him -- or waiting for us at some place where we find him and say. 'Hey, Keith, come home.'"
In an email to an Aumavae family member, Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Jacob Covey wrote, in part, “Unfortunately your brother doesn’t qualify for a Silver Alert. He has been missing for 10 days and we need a direction of travel.”
Whether a person has been missing for 10 days or more and a direction of travel is not part of the official criteria for activating a Silver Alert that an AST spokesperson has referred KTVA to: http://amberalert.alaska.gov/CriteriaSilver.
When KTVA specifically asked Troopers why they believe Aumavae doesn’t qualify for a Silver Alert during a news conference last week, Lt. Christopher Thompson’s answer differed from what Troopers told the family.
Lt. Thompson said they don’t believe he meets the part of the criteria that says:
“There is a clear indication that the individual has a deterioration of intellectual faculties, a physical impairment or medical condition that makes them unable to meet their own needs or to seek help without assistance."
“Here we have a guy whom he's functioning, he's been living by himself, he has a driver's license, there were some, you know, things like that that were kinda, I don't know if it meets the criteria for that reason,” said Thompson.
Aumavae’s family says he’s diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia and they “absolutely” believe he meets that criteria.
“Some of the facts that were part of that press conference weren't true, and we're here to say, on behalf of our family, we don't want it to happen to another family,” said Junior.
The family also received an email from Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan on November 6, saying in part, “Our Troopers were instructed to investigate this criminally, and are currently doing so. I extend my apologies if there was some confusion on the activation of a Silver Alert, but it is now up as you now know, and we along with your family are awaiting some hopeful information that may come from it.”
Monegan wasn’t available to speak Tuesday but KTVA has requested an interview to discuss how troopers handled the Silver Alert.
Troopers said in the dispatch that the Aumavaes have been notified of the autopsy findings.
Funeral services for Keith Aumavae will be held on Sunday, November 18. Check back for updates.
Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.