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Update: Zubers Request CCSO Turn Over Investigation

Update: Zubers Request CCSO Turn Over Investigation

Representatives of the family of Sarah Zuber are urging Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley to approve an investigation into the death of Sarah Zuber, a teenager who tragically died in March 2019.

On Mar. 13, 2019, Sarah Zuber’s body was found by her sister, Katie Zuber, on the side of Neer City Road in Rainier, less than 400 feet from her home.

After an investigation by a major crimes team, Oregon State Medical Examiner Rebecca Millius ruled that the death was accidental and caused by “combined deterious effects of acute ethanol (beverage alcohol) intoxication and hypothermia due to exposure.”

From the moment the investigators delivered their conclusion, the Zuber family had serious concerns about the investigation. The Justice For Sarah Zuber Facebook page, created to bring awareness to the ongoing plight of the family, now has more than 2,000 followers.

While the family hopes for a reinvestigation of Sarah’s death, the family has also been seeking public records related to the case. Representatives for the Zubers filed a complaint against the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in December 2023 because they say public records relating to the death of Sarah Zuber requested of the agencies have not been filled, now more than two years after the original requests were made. The family is also requesting that an investigation be undertaken by St. Helens Police Department Detective Matt Smith.

The Columbia County Chronicle & Chief spoke with Zuber family spokesperson Jennifer Massey and Zuber family attorney Erica Tatoian to understand where things stand on both requests.

“[There’s] two requests from the Zubers. One is the public records request, which is being handled in litigation,” Tatoian said. “The second request is that Sheriff Pixley reopen the investigation and allow either Matt Smith of the Major Crimes Team, or ask the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Sarah’s death.”

Tatoian said the public records would tell the family what the initial investigation entailed but that opening a new investigation would provide answers the family desperately seeks.

Representatives for the family met with Pixley, Columbia County District Attorney Joshua Pond, and county attorneys Jan. 22 to present the “action items” for a new investigation and to request Pixley to authorize an investigation by another law enforcement agency.

“We just focused on things that can actually be done today that can help provide answers in this investigation,” Tatoian said.

Tatoian said that some of the family’s issues with the investigation can not be remedied now. An example Tatoian gave of something that is not “fixable” is that investigators did not wait for the mobile forensics lab to arrive at the scene. Representatives told Pixley that Smith was the family’s choice based on things they had heard from within the community.

“[The Zubers] also said that the fact that they trust him and prayed so much that any of the answers that he brought forth are something they would find peace and closure with,” Massey said. “That’s an important piece of this. So, even if it came back with the same result, he can articulate it in a manner that explains it to them so that they would be able to find solace.”

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