Sheriff's Badge

Body Found in Abandoned Vehicle in Chehalis; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Eyed as Cause

By Natalie Johnson/

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office suspects a propane heater could be to blame for the death of an individual found by a deputy Sunday morning in a seemingly abandoned vehicle in Chehalis.

On Saturday, deputies found a vehicle that was believed to be abandoned near the intersection of Interstate Avenue and Bishop Road in Chehalis.

“We checked on it, did a 24-hour tag,” Undersheriff Wes Rethwill said.

The next day, deputies returned to the car and, during the attempt to impound it, found a body in the back.

Deputies notified the Lewis County Coroner’s Office at 6:18 a.m. Sunday.

At a meeting Tuesday morning with the Lewis County Board of Commissioners, Rethwill and Sheriff Rob Snaza said a portable propane heater was also found in the vehicle. Improperly functioning portable propane heaters can give off carbon monoxide and cause suffocation.

“It’s an unfortunate incident … but it’s happened before,” Snaza said.

Rethwill cautioned that the cause of death is only a suspicion at this point.

“I can surmise all day long as far as what it is, but we’ll wait until the medical examiner gives us a formal cause,” he said.

No information is known at this time about the man’s identity.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod did not immediately return a request for information on the case.

“It’s that time of the year,” Rethwill said. “More than likely this individual was living in his vehicle and it’s sad. It’s very very sad.”