It has now been six months since the community of Rainier and surrounding areas were rocked by the discovery of 18-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Zuber’s body off of Highway 30 by Neer City Road in Goble, Oregon.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is once again seeking the public’s assistance in the ongoing investigation, and said they have phone and online tip areas set up. According to District Attorney Jeff Auxier, Zuber’s case is currently a death investigation.
At the time Zuber was found, investigators confirmed she was found with no visible injuries. Sheriff Brian Pixley said the CCSO has received Zuber’s autopsy report but said investigators could not speculate as to the cause of death. Pixley said there was still more follow-up to do.
“Whenever there’s a loss of life under circumstances like this, it’s imperative that we do all that we possibly can to get to the truth of the matter, and we’re devoting all the resources we can to getting to the truth,” District Attorney Jeff Auxier said. “Every case is different, and I can assure everyone in this community that we’ll leave no stone unturned in our effort to get answers.”
As questions still abound around the teen’s mysterious death, Auxier said he understood the community’s frustration with a lack of answers.
“This is one that has required a lot of patience from the community, from law enforcement, from the victim’s family, and it’s just really painful that we all have to be in the dark to the extent that we have,” Auxier added. “But we believe that’s in the best interest of the case and in the best interest of getting to the truth.”
In a CCSO press release, officials said they are working the case with the help of the Oregon State Police (OSP), Rainier Police Department (RPD), Scappoose Police Department (SPD) and the St. Helens Police Department (SHPD) as they “continue to follow up on leads and investigate the death of our daughter, sister, and friend.”
In March, investigators said they believed the “incident” which resulted in the teen’s death is believed to have occurred in the area of the intersection of Neer City Road and Nick Thomas Road in the Rainier area. The incident is believed to have occurred during the late evening hours of Tuesday, March 12, and the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 13.
“Our office is asking the public for assistance in this investigation,” Pixley said. “If you have information about Sarah or the events leading up to her death, please call us immediately.”
Zuber family releases statement
Through a CCSO press release, the Zuber family is also asking for the public’s help in the investigation. They released the following statement:
“Friday, 9/13/19, a palindrome, full moon, and six months since our beautiful Sarah Elizabeth Zuber was taken from this cruel earth. Around 12:30 in the afternoon, on March 13th, I received a hysterical phone call from Sarah’s younger sister. ‘Mom! Sarah is dead in the ditch!’ This is a phone call no parent should ever get.
“Much like the rain soaked, overcast day of March 13th, a dark cloud of uncertainty permeates our thoughts as we are left with unanswered questions about the evening of March 12th. At times the grief is unbearable, so much so that only a groan escapes my airway, and the tears flow unceasingly through the lonely night. There are times when I literally stop breathing, only realizing it the moment I expel a deep breath, my lungs in a state of paralysis until human survival takes over. I wonder if that is what it was like for Sarah. The only difference being that for some reason, she never took in that life sustaining breath. Only the exhale…then nothing.
“What were her last moments? Was she alone? Scared? Or was she held, compassionately. Was it quick? Or did it take time for that final exhale?
“Someone knows the answers to these questions. Please. From the depths of my heart, I forgive you. I just need to know the truth.
“Sarah’s family is pleading with you to come forward and tell us what happened. The outpouring of support we received over those first few months was a true testimony of the grief all of you share with us. I am certain that this grief reaches out, even to the one or more who knows the truth. As a mom, a dad, a sister, a brother, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, a neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker and even an acquaintance, we all are begging you to please come forward with any truth you know about the night of March 12, 2019 and our precious 18-year-old daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Zuber.
“Very sincerely, The Zuber family and friends”
Deputies with the CCSO responded to the discovery of Zuber’s body with fire medics in tow around noon on Wednesday, March 13. Her remains were reportedly found by a family member. Multiple units responded to the scene, including investigators from the CCSO, SHPD, SPD and OSP.
According to a Gofundme page set up to help her family with expenses in the wake of her death, Zuber was excited to start classes at Portland State University this year, was a daughter to “very hard-working parents” and was a big sister to two younger twin sisters. The page said she “loved life, her family, her animals, her church and her Lord.”
Close friend and former Grocery Outlet co-worker Eleanor Pierce, who ran cross-country with Zuber in high school, told The Chronicle in March the teen was not only a talented artist, but a friendly, genuine person. “She was always so friendly to everyone. She put others before herself almost 99 percent of the time. Anything you needed from her, she would have it,” Pierce said. “I could introduce her to anyone and she would just be friends with them instantly.”
A candlelight vigil was held in honor of Zuber on March 20, drawing a crowd of citizens from surrounding communities in a show of support.
To submit a tip
Anyone with information should call the non-emergency dispatch line at 503-397-1521, or reach out through the tip line for the Columbia Enforcement Narcotics Team at 503-397-1167. Tips may also be submitted online at: bit.ly/SarahZuber.