SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash — A 25-year-old woman has been found dead near Wallace Falls in Snohomish County. Police suspect psychedelic mushrooms played a part.
Leigh Kuppler was out for a hike at the falls with her partner last Friday when they ran into a pair of young women.
“At one point, she was standing there, and she fell straight back onto the ground, hitting her head on the rocks," said Kuppler.
According to Kuppler, the women appeared intoxicated but not drunk. One of the women had torn clothing and dirt on her face.
“She hugged us and said, 'I hope you enjoy this trail,’” said Kuppler. "Then she hugged her friend. After that, she took a couple steps back and was standing looking at us, and she fell straight back hitting her head again."
Kuppler tried to help the hikers, but they refused.
“Her friend was just saying that everything was fine and to leave them alone," said Kuppler.
Concerned for their safety, Kuppler called 911.
“The last words I exchanged with her were, ‘good luck, I hope everything is OK,’" said Kuppler.
The next morning, a search and rescue crew found 25-year-old Alisonstar Molaf of New Jersey dead near the Wallace River.
The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said both women were "under the influence of mushrooms."
“It really sits heavy with me knowing I was the last one to see her alive, and it just happened so quickly," said Kuppler.
The trail to Wallace Falls can be dangerous because there are cliffs along the way.
It isn't hard for people to get in trouble when they're sober. Experts said the odds of something bad happening increase exponentially under the influence of psychedelics.
“In a dangerous environment, I think accidents are prone to happen," said University of Washington researcher Dr. Nathan Sackett.
Sackett believes psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, is quite safe on its own.
Psychedelic mushrooms are growing in popularity with their decriminalization in Oregon, the trend of "microdosing" small amounts to increase creativity, and their promising use as a therapeutic for everything from depression to addiction.
However, mushrooms can also make people hallucinate, act impulsively and not think of any potential consequences for their actions.
“This is a big concern of mine," explained Sackett. “As psychedelics become culturally more normative, it's really important that people know they should do them in a controlled environment. Hopefully, one day, people won't have to hide in the woods to experience them."
The official cause of Molaf's death has not been determined by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner. Sheriff's department investigators announced her death does appear to be accidental.
For people intent on experimenting with mushrooms, or any psychedelic, Sackett advised people to be in a safe place with people they trust and to have a sober person on hand if things take a dangerous turn.
“It really is frustrating, and it's hard to deal with because I wish I could've done more," said Kuppler. "I think we did the right thing, though, by calling someone who could help. You just don't know what's gonna happen."