Actress Misty Upham's family says police made little effort

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 17, 2014 5:55 PM

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The family of "August: Osage County" actress Misty Upham, believed to have been found dead more than a week after she was reported missing, is outraged local police in Washington state made little effort to find her, a family friend said on Friday.

A search party organized by the family found a body believed to be the 32-year-old Native American actress on Thursday at the bottom of a 150-foot (46-meter) embankment in Auburn, Washington, some 20 miles south of Seattle.

Local police have said they did not consider Upham endangered and they could do little in the situation because Upham was an adult who left her residence on her own.

The King County Medical Examiner is expected to identify the body and release autopsy results on Friday. A purse with Upham's identification was at the scene, police said.

Family friend Tracy Rector, a filmmaker who was part of family-organized groups that searched for Upham and has been a spokeswoman for the family, said the actress suffered from anxiety and bi-polar disorder and was without medication when her father reported her missing on Oct. 6.

"They chose not to act when the family pleaded with them to help," Rector said of Auburn police. "It was not in Misty's character to disappear. ... They went to the police repeatedly."

Rector said Upham's case strikes at the long-standing tension between the Native American community on the Muckleshoot Reservation and Auburn police, which she said has often been unresponsive and antagonistic.

"There were a number of people who came up to me that said, 'We've been dealing with this ever since we can remember. For many, many years our people are not safe with Auburn police'," Rector said.

A spokesman for the Auburn Police Department did not immediately respond to a message left seeking comment on its relations with the local Native American community.

"The family can't dismiss that did the police just see Misty as another native and did not respond accordingly as if they would if she was a Caucasian resident," Rector said. "That's the reality of that area. There's still quite a bit of racism."

Police said they responded to a suicide call from an apartment where Upham had been living on Oct. 5 but the actress had already left by the time they were able to respond.

Rector said Upham's family does not feel she committed suicide as the area where she apparently fell to her death is an area where many others have fallen.

Upham was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her supporting role in the 2008 crime drama "Frozen River," and played a carer for Meryl Streep's cancer-ridden character in last year's ensemble drama "August: Osage County."

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and James Dalgleish)