A search through Capitol Hill’s Interlaken Park to the spot where his son’s body was discovered in the greenbelt’s wooded ravines led Jonathan LeBaron to another lost life. LeBaron found the human remains CHS reported on over the Labor Day holiday weekend while walking to a tall cedar tree inside the park, the site where the body of his son Jon LeBaron had been found by two people a few days earlier. Authorities are investigating not one set of human remains found in Interlaken in the weeks around Labor Day, but two.
“I think that place should be combed,” LeBaron tells CHS. “It was a needle in a haystack where I found that body.”
The discoveries underscore the epidemic of addiction and homelessness that continues to grow on Capitol Hill and the region despite the city’s renewed attempts to address it. They also illustrate a dilemma with Interlaken Park, loved for its wild terrain filled with tall trees and steep ravines — the same terrain that makes it an ideal place to camp undetected and nearly impossible for those overdosing or in need of help to be found.
According to Seattle Police, two people were walking down a ravine in Interlaken Park on August 30th when they came across LeBaron’s son, fully clothed and decayed. “This is legit,” the responding officer who climbed down to the site radioed in to East Precinct command. Homicide detectives called to the scene found no signs of foul play, police said. The only item to positively identify the man was a food assistance card.
Jon LeBaron was only 29 years old when he died, but had struggled with drug addiction and homelessness for nearly eight years, his father told CHS. Police told LeBaron his son had likely been dead for two months when he was found.
“It’s just an epidemic,” LeBaron said. “We are watching our kids die.” The official cause of LeBaron’s death has not been publicly released by the King County Medical Examiner.
Five days after his son was found, LeBaron went to Interlaken Park on September 4th with a homemade cross to mark the spot where Jon had died. Unsure of the exact location, LeBaron was traversing deep in a forested area when he came across a pile of bags he thought may have belonged to his son.
“I started going through the bags and looked over to the right and saw there was a skull,” he said. LeBaron called 911. Police tell CHS there is no evidence of foul play and the death is not considered suspicious. The medical examiner’s office has not yet identified the body or the cause of death.
By chance, one of the officers that responded to LeBaron’s call on September 4th had been on the scene when LeBaron’s son was discovered on August 30th. The officer showed LeBaron where his son was found and how he was positioned, resting under the large cedar tree.
LeBaron, who lives in Kenmore, said his son mostly stayed around West Seattle and Burien and had not known him to spend time on Capitol Hill. He also said his son preferred to be alone while he was on the streets.
LeBaron said that his son had entered a rehab program and appeared to be turning his life around shortly before he went missing. He had been off drugs for five months when he abruptly left the program earlier this year. LeBaron said that was the last time he heard from his son. “If a person does a drug after that long they just have a higher chance of overdosing,” he said.
After LeBaron placed the cross at the site where Jon was found, he posted this message to Facebook.
Today was a great day. It was beautiful. My friend Todd and I went to the park where Jon was found. I, as his father now have so many of my questions answered. Know that he passed under a Tall Cedar Tree. The area was clean. Only a bottle of water a ball and Johnny were found under that beautiful tree.
We had our questions met by the first responding officer with details of how he lay, what seemed as a very relaxed position on a slight slope under the tree. Today was so sunny and the place he chose was so relaxing and peaceful. Sun shown through the tall trees above.
There was no evidence of paraphernalia or any foul play at the scene. I would like to also believe that he was just tired and broken and done with his journey when he rested his head.
My questions and concerns are complete and answered. I hope you have comfort and resolve for any grief you may have had. My heart is content knowing that this peaceful area was his last resting place.
Thank you Father God for honoring me with the time I got to cherish with my firstborn son. His spirit is forever yours. We will see you soon Johnny.
Both of the deaths remain under investigation. A Seattle Police spokesperson said there are currently no plans for a sweep of the Interlaken Park greenbelt unless something criminal is revealed during the medical examinations.