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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Elderly Tonasket woman found dead in her Jeep, likely from extreme cold

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 10, 2021

Alberta Russel went looking for her father’s home Monday, although he’d passed away in the 1990s. Deputies believe she died from exposure to the cold.  (Washington State Patrol)
Alberta Russel went looking for her father’s home Monday, although he’d passed away in the 1990s. Deputies believe she died from exposure to the cold. (Washington State Patrol)

A logging crew found a 77-year-old Tonasket woman dead Tuesday in her Jeep along a Ferry County forest service road, Ferry County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Justin Knisley said.

Around noon Monday, Alberta Russel said she wanted to check on her father’s home, although her father died in the 1990s, according to a Silver Alert. She had not driven in years and was disoriented when she left home, the alert said.

It was a little more than 24 hours later that the Ferry County Sheriff’s Office learned from the Okanogan Sheriff’s Office that Russel was missing and that her phone had pinged in Ferry County, Knisley said.

Around 12:40, a crew of loggers about a quarter-mile down Karamip Road, a U.S. Forest Service road off Highway 20, found a Jeep with an unresponsive woman inside, later identified as Russel, Knisley said.

Her Jeep was out of gas and the battery was dead when deputies arrived, Knisley said. She’d had little gas when she left Tonasket, about an hour’s drive from Karamip Road.

“She must have been darn near on fumes,” Knisley said.

Huge berms of snow lined Highway 20 and, at the time deputies found the car, it was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit out, though Ferry County residents reported temperatures closer to -5 degrees overnight, Knisley said.

There were no apparent signs of an accident, and deputies believe she died from exposure to the cold, Knisley said.

The National Weather Service is warning of extremely cold weather in Spokane, including wind chills as cold as -20 degrees Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The National Weather Service recommends keeping jumper cables and an emergency kit in your car.

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