Hiker finds body of Juneau man missing since late September

Barbara Charles shares memories of her grandson, Doug Farnsworth, during a vigil for him on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at Overstreet Park in Juneau. Farnsworth had been missing for a month. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of human remains that may be difficult for some readers.

Juneau police and Doug Farnsworth’s family say his body has been found. It’s not clear yet how he died.

“A hiker was doing their normal hike with their dog, and their dog ran up the hill above Flume, kind of by Gold Creek. And that’s where he found the remains of my brother,” said Doug Farnsworth’s sister, Kiersten Farnsworth.

Farnsworth has been missing since late September. A truck he’d been driving was found close to the Perseverance Trail, near downtown Juneau. At first there was a large search and rescue operation that included Alaska State Troopers, the Coast Guard and a local canine group, but they found no trace of him. For the last month, ground searches were largely organized by family and friends.

When the hiker stumbled on the remains on Sunday afternoon, Kiersten Farnsworth said it wasn’t a whole body, but there was enough to identify her brother.

“They did find some bones and his clothes and the gun and a phone. So we can’t really determine how death was, just because most of him is missing,” she said.

She said she got a call from Juneau police at about 8 p.m. on Sunday night.

“I was really upset last night,” she said. “I’d say the hardest part is calling family member after family member, re-explaining everything.”

She said those calls have been complicated by how quickly the police posted on social media that he’d been found. JPD updated its missing persons post on Facebook at 8:10 p.m.

“I was really surprised at how quick they jumped the gun to post though because I barely had time to call the family,” she said. “I mean, it took three days to make a post about him missing, but it took them hours to say that they found (him).”

She said police are supposed to be out in the woods today looking for more remains.

Juneau police reported on Monday that the body was found in the woods near Irwin Street. According to a media release, they’ve sent Farnsworth’s remains to the medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy and are still investigating.

Kiersten Farnsworth lives in Arizona, but she and her brother were raised in Juneau. She said she’s been inundated with messages and calls as news spreads that her brother has been found.

Phone calls to family have been hard.

“They’re destroyed,” she said. “They’re pretty crushed. A lot of them are stuck in this question as well — what happened?”

Now Farnsworth says she’s working on getting the money to travel back to Juneau so they can lay him to rest. And she’s looking for more information about the hiker so she can give them the $5,000 reward her family offered for information about Doug Farnsworth’s disappearance.

“That dog deserves a trophy,” she said.

And she’s working on repurposing a Facebook group that’s gathered nearly 800 members. She said she wants it to be a place where people can go to coordinate searches for other people who go missing in Juneau.

She’s said she’s building a roadmap of sorts — a packet with templates for missing-person fliers and links to local aid organizations. She envisions a group where people can post about where they’ve searched and link to maps, a place for the community to work together outside of official search and rescue channels.

“I don’t think anybody should have to go through somebody missing and then feel like they’re not important enough to look for,” she said.

Correction: This story has been corrected with the time frame Doug Farnsworth disappeared and to reflect that while he and his sister were raised in Juneau, they were born in Arizona.

Rashah McChesney

Daily News Editor

I help the newsroom establish daily news priorities and do hands-on editing to ensure a steady stream of breaking and enterprise news for a local and regional audience.

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