'Certainly Ann deserves much more:' woman's body dumped, ditched after heroin OD

Ann Zachariasen. Photo courtesy of Rex Hohlbein.

SEATTLE -- Depending on who you ask, Ann Zachariasen was either a doting grandmother -- who went out of her way to spoil the grandkids when she could -- or a lifelong Ballard resident who struggled with heroin and homelessness, spending most of her life on the street.

To Rex Hohlbein, she was both -- and still beautiful at the same time.

"She was a really loving person, really sensitive. Unbelievably optimistic. Every day she would start fresh and that created a connection with all of us," said Hohlbein, a friend. "There are a few people we've gotten to know quite well and Ann was one of those people."

Ask Hohlbein, an architect and executive director of Facing Homelessness, and he will share stories of the time Ann brought a Christmas wreath to his office because she thought they needed one. He will smile recalling when she jumped in a canal to rescue a friend's bike from sinking to the bottom. He will remind you that Ann went to court - knowing she'd be dragged to jail on an outstanding warrant - just to vouch for a friend.

So it's understandable that Hohlbein and others were thrilled when Zachariasen found housing at The Nyer Urness, a facility for homeless and vulnerable adults, last November. She had begun moving into her apartment in her native Ballard.

"[Friends] were so profoundly happy for her," Hohlbein says.

And then he makes a face.

Zachariasen would be found dead a few days later, wrapped in a carpet and shoved into a shopping cart, abandoned on a cold, dark street in the early hours of a Thursday morning.

A worker at an upholstery store on 46th Street Northwest arrived at his office around 5:45 am November 19th and saw the cart full of debris, detectives say. "He believe it had been left by transients," they wrote. When he moved it, Zachariasen's body fell to the ground, her signature purple hair noted by responding officers. A hypodermic needle was also recovered by a CSI team.

It would take weeks for detectives to piece together what happened. A nearby business captured video of two men pushing what looked like the cart about 90 minutes before it was found. They were moving from the Ballard Bridge toward the upholstery shop.

Police pulled phone records, and interviewed the people on them. They eventually identified two men. One said he found Ann's body outside his RV and that she had been there "for over a day." He enlisted the help of a second man to move the body, "concerned Zachariasen's overdose would draw attention to narcotics activity at their motorhome."

They denied giving her drugs.

On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Michael Tarp, 56, and Michael Kircher, 33, with "unlawful disposal of human remains" and for failing to notify the coroner.

"The failure to act, the failure of people to call 911, or to dump somebody's body -- it happens on a fairly regular basis," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. "There is an epidemic of heroin like we've never seen before, and Seattle is certainly not immune to that."

Urquhart - like others - bring up Washington's "Good Samaritan law," passed in 2010. It provides immunity from criminal drug possession charges for someone calling 911 to report an overdose.

"That point in time is critical," said Brad Finegood, Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Prevention Coordinator for King County. "If you do not act in that key point in time when somebody is in active overdose, they can and often will die."

Finegood also points to the availability of "overdose aid kits," which contain an antidote to overdose death and are available at a number of local pharmacies. The law mandates that they be available to anyone -- no prescription needed.

"This absolutely can save a life," said Josh Akers, a pharmacy manager for Kelley-Ross Pharmacy. "Concerned parents, concerned family members, concerned friends -- they may come across somebody who's overdosed and they want to be able to respond and to help."

The First Hill pharmacy has dispensed about 100 kits, which contain the antidote Naloxone, since August of 2012, Akers said. They know of 12 that have saved lives.

No one knows if either measure could have saved Ann Zachariasen. At the very least, friends say, she deserved something better.

"Certainly Ann deserves much more than that," Hohlbein says. "She deserves all the beauty and the kindness she put into the world."

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