When Allyson Watterson went missing just before Christmas Day last year, her boyfriend’s father told investigators his son had been out hiking with Watterson in North Plains, a rural area on the outskirts of Portland, before the pair became separated.
Watterson’s mother, Misty, believed her daughter and her boyfriend, Benjamin Garland, had been in North Plains to visit a friend when their car broke down.
But there was no evidence to suggest either story was true, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office later revealed.
On Friday, Watterson’s disappearance took a tragic turn when the Washington County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed her body had been found on a remote property in North Plains, a few hundred yards from the road. The property owner called the police after finding her body while clearing brush.
A cause of death had not yet been determined and detectives said they were continuing to investigate her death.
“Allyson was the most kind hearted soul I have ever met,” her friend, Megan Novelli, told The Daily Beast. “[We] were spiritually connected and on Christmas Day I felt a part of me get ripped out through my chest and out my throat... I felt like she was gone, I just still had a little bit of hope as I could never ever imagine her being out of my life like this.”
Initially, deputies said she’d gone missing while hiking. But, a week later, they said there was no evidence she and Garland had been hiking through the rough, privately owned terrain around North Plains.
“This isn’t open area. I wouldn’t expect them to just be out here hiking,” Deputy Tony Morris said in a news conference at the time.
One homeowner in the area reported seeing the couple around noon on Dec. 22, the day before she was reported missing. Another resident reported that the couple had knocked on their door and asked to use a phone because their vehicle had broken down. The resident said Garland was barefoot and had given his shoes to Watterson, who said she lost hers.
Another homeowner found Garland asleep in the homeowner’s truck the next morning, and Garland said he’d taken cover from the rain after losing his friends. The homeowner gave Garland a lift home. Then, later that day, Garland and his father, Don, reported Watterson missing—about 30 hours after she was last seen.
The father and son said they had spent the day searching for Watterson and called police when they couldn’t find her. They said they were reluctant to call police because Garland had outstanding warrants.
The 30-hour time gap was “concerning to us,” Washington County Detective Mark Povolny said in December. “We’re trying to put together what happened during that time.”
Rescue crews spent five days scouring by land and air for Watterson, the county’s largest search operation in a decade. Some of her belongings were discovered in North Plains in March.
But, adding to the mystery, Misty Watterson told reporters shortly after the hiking theory was debunked that she believed her daughter and Garland had been in North Plains to visit a friend. Their car broke down and the two were separated when they left to find help, she believed.
“She told me she was going to hang out with her friends. She was in good spirits. We told each other ‘love you’ and that we’d talk to each other later,” she told Dateline in January. “We are really close. Our whole family is.”
Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brian van Kleef said there was no sign of a broken down car. “We don’t know what they were doing out there,” he said.
Garland was arrested on unrelated warrants the day after he reported Watterson missing and later pleaded guilty to several charges, including unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He is serving three years in prison.
Novelli said Watterson lived with her mother, her father Allan, and her brother Blake “who all loved her so much.” She last spoke to her best friend by FaceTime two days before she disappeared.
“She helped me with the death of my own mother and now the one person who actually ever helped me with anything is gone,” she told The Daily Beast.
“We had plans to move into a house together, watch movies every night and eat tacos with our cats. We also told each other if we're not married by 30 we will marry each other. Even though neither us were romantically in love we did fall in love with each other’s souls.”
Following the discovery of Watterson’s body, a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of Watterson’s mother said: “This is not the outcome we were praying for, but we are out of the unknown.”