By Kirsten Swann
About a month ago, 54-year-old Irma Williams disappeared.
Her peach-colored apartment on Taylor Street was left virtually untouched and she left no word with her three children, her nieces or nephews. They knew something was wrong.
“She’s not the kind of person to just up and leave,” said her youngest child, 21-year-old Patrick Westdahl.
Then, Thursday afternoon, he learned that the Anchorage Police Department had found his mother’s body somewhere near Mountain View Lions Park. An APD search team combed through the woods near the back of the park and said the whole forest was considered a crime scene. Detectives called it a homicide investigation, and a terse written statement from APD said Williams’ body was discovered sometime Wednesday morning.
Police didn’t tell the family much else, Westdahl said.
His mother had lived in Mountain View for about 20 years now, he said. She attended church in the neighborhood and rode a blue bicycle; shopping for groceries at Red Apple and going for spins through Lions Park and neighboring Davis Park.
Everyone called her “mom,” Westdahl said. She worked as a personal care assistant at Consumer Care Network and once or twice a week, she’d collect donations of food from local stores and feed the hungry out of her little Mountain View home. She was especially partial to Alaska Native cuisine, and her family said she loved beading and elderly people and her pet bird.
She had a kind heart and a goofy sense of humor and a broad smile.
When she vanished, flyers with her name and photo began popping up on light poles and stop signs and bus stops all over town. Many people in Mountain View recognized her face.
She was last seen sometime during the last two weeks of September, Westdahl said. When his older sister contacted him Sept. 29 and told him nobody had heard from their mother in about a week, he went to her apartment to check in on her himself.
The police were already there, he said, along with his older brother. Williams was nowhere to be found. A missing person report was filed Sept. 30, according to APD.
For the next several weeks, there were few clues as to Williams’ whereabouts. Her former employer, Consumer Care Network, said she hadn’t worked for the company since late August.
Westdahl said police shared little information about their investigation.
A police department spokeswoman said all missing person cases are handled by the Homicide Unit, whose six detectives also investigate murders, some suicides, suspicious deaths, kidnappings and infant deaths. At any given time, detectives have anywhere from eight to 16 pending cases, and about half a dozen cases pending trials, according to APD. Williams’ case was one of many.
In the days after she disappeared, family members had organized a search party in the woods by Lions Park, hoping to find some trace of their missing loved one.
In the aftermath of her death, they’re still searching for answers.
Update, Dec. 17: Anchorage police have arrested 46-year-old Michael Memeo, who appeared in court Wednesday on charges of first and second-degree murder and tampering with evidence in connection with Williams’ death.