CHELAN COUNTY, Wash. — A team of 60 volunteers scoured 13 miles of Highway 2 in Chelan County Wednesday looking for any sign of Tianyu “Tommy” Lyu, a Chinese national that authorities believe was murdered in a Newcastle condo back on Nov. 22.
While search and rescue volunteers are usually called in to help find the lost, this time they are asked to find signs of remains.
This is just the latest major search. Another along Highway 97 over Blewett Pass was conducted weeks ago, as spring has arrived and the snow is melting out of higher and higher elevations.
But the public is also being asked to help. Investigators are asking hikers in the area to keep an eye out, and in particular, property owners who may not have visited their mountain cabins since the fall.
“It’s not a pretty thing to ask owners to look for a body on their property. In this case, it’s what we need to do,” said Detective Mike Mellis of the King County Sheriff’s office major crimes unit.
Mellis said the evidence could be anything unusual.
"[R]olled up carpeting, rolled up things that might… be the right size to contain a human body," Mellis said.
Tommy Lyu's disappearance was originally treated as a missing person’s case.
But Mellis said Lyu's family back in China, along with family in San Francisco, began asking police in China to see if they could find out anything from a Chinese friend of Lyu’s who had returned home.
“And they got the local authorities in China, the police in China, to question this young man and the young man ultimately provided a full confession,” Mellis said. That happened in January.
He said the confession provided through Chinese police correlates with blood evidence found in the condo. Also, investigators found blood evidence in an older Lexus that the suspect in China and another Taiwanese man sold to a car dealer in Portland.
That other suspect, Henry Gao, was arrested while trying to board a flight back to Taiwan. He’s been charged with Felony Rendering of Criminal Assistance.
Mellis said it appears the murder was connected to a marijuana drug deal gone bad. Lyu was stabbed.
But finding Lyu has been particularly difficult. Mellis said he believes Lyu could have been dumped anywhere from east of Startup in Snohomish County, to somewhere over Blewett Pass.
Security camera photos of the car used in the crime showed it leaving the condo and returning five and a half hours later, more than enough time to do the full loop over Stevens Pass, over Blewett and back over I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass.
But Mellis said cell phone data is not providing anything obvious about the pair making a stop for any length of time to drive well off the road to try and hide a body, but the area checked out Wednesday has plenty of roads and driveways off U.S. 2 where a body could have been quickly dumped.
If you find anything, you are asked to call the King County Sheriff’s non-emergency tip line at (206) 296-3311.