Misty Upham Died the Day of Her Disappearance, Family “Very Upset” With Auburn Police

Misty Upham
Misty Upham died the day of her disappearance, and family spokesperson Tracy Rector told Us Weekly that the Uphams were "very upset" with local police for not actively searching for the missing actress -- get the full story here. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Misty Upham's family is very upset with local police after the star's body was found in a wooded area near Auburn, Wa., last Thursday, Oct. 16. Family spokesperson Tracy Rector told Us Weekly that Auburn Police did nothing to actively search for the missing actress whose whereabouts had been unknown since Oct. 5 — which, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office, was the day of Upham's death.

"The family wants to make it clear that they did not receive help from the police in searching for Misty and that the other [police department] employees failed to help them," Rector told Us. "They pleaded with them and their concerns were not taken seriously. The police said that 32-year-old Misty grabbed her purse and put her shoes on. So, according to the guidelines, that meant that she was an adult who left on her own recognizance."

According to Seattle-based filmmaker Rector, the Auburn Police Department "did not take the family's serious and urgent concerns to heart."

With police refusing to comply with the August: Osage County star's disappearance, Misty's uncle Robert Upham decided to organize a search and rescue team comprised of family and friends. "Within two days, they found her," Rector, a friend of the late actress for 10 years, told Us. "It was a very well-organized search and rescue effort; they brought out maps of the area and just sectioned off the most probable sites and the wooded sections of the region first. They were just following their plan for that day to search in the ravine. That was an area that many people in the area and community had mentioned to the police was an area to look, just because that's a dangerous walking site and there's terrain. And that's where they found her was 160 feet down a ravine."

The Auburn Police Department confirmed to Us last Thursday that a body had been discovered in the woods at the bottom of an embankment near the White River.

Rector told Us the search team first found Misty's purse, which contained the star's identification. "They knew that she was close, or they had a sense," said the filmmaker. "Just 25 yards further, there was a steep drop, a cliff basically in the woods. They tied a rope and scaled down the cliff and that's where they found her."

Misty's father Charles Upham was the one to confirm to police personnel that the body belonged to his daughter. In an Oct. 10 interview with THR, Charles said he believed his daughter suffered from bipolar disorder and believed she may have been suicidal. After identifying Misty's body on Thursday, Charles and the family "still do not feel that Misty Upham committed suicide," Rector told THR on Friday.

Upham's August: Osage County costar Juliette Lewis took to social media on Friday, Oct. 17, to speculate the cause of her friend's death. "Misty told me about horrible violence she suffered on NA reservations," Lewis claimed in one tweet. "She felt she could be murdered! Bcuz she was vocal #ThisIsNOTaSUICIDE."

Rector also addressed Lewis' comments and revealed to Us that Upham had reported several weeks before her disappearance and death that local police had been harassing her. "Misty was absolutely an activist and she spoke out about injustice but she was a devoted daughter and she loved her native people," Rector said. "What's most concerning is that there is a long history of police harassments in that area… Misty had just reported a few weeks prior to a situation where [the police] had been harassing her."

The Upham family, though, was most upset about how police dealt with Misty's disappearance. "The family is most worried that — because of this history — that they did not take the concerns seriously in looking for Misty," Rector told Us. "It's not believed that she had enemies within the Native community, the family stated that she did not commit suicide. They feel that she left in a distraught state and the time to act was immediately and the Auburn police did not help. And they're outraged. Something could've been done and they did not receive the help."

Despite the family's claims, Auburn Police Commander Steve Stocker told a local NBC outlet that detectives "did everything we could on this case."

A Washington state medical examiner's office said Friday that Upham had been dead for 11 days before her body was discovered Thursday. When her family filed a missing person report, Upham had already been dead for two days. Her cause of death still remains under investigation.

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