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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

March 16, 2011 at 11:36 AM

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Homeless man found near Ballard Locks died from hypothermia

Posted by John de Leon

-- From Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green:

A 49-year-old homeless man whose body was found near Seattle's Ballard Locks on March 5 died from hypothermia, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.

Charles N. Tompkins is the second homeless person to die of exposure in Seattle and the third to die in King County since September, according to WHEEL, a homeless women's advocacy group, and Women In Black, which holds silent vigils anytime a homeless person dies outside or by violence.

Just after 9 a.m. on March 5, a friend of Tompkins' called 911 after he found his body in a wooded area just west of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks parking lot, according to a Seattle police report. When officers arrived, medics were already there and pronounced Tompkins dead at 9:23 a.m.

Tompkins was a transient who lived in the Ballard area, the report says. He was found lying face down and had apparently been in the same position for 24 hours; he died during the night, according to the police report. Tompkins' friend told officers that Tompkins struggled with alcohol and an empty jug of wine was found next to his body, the report says.

Tompkins "was bundled up, his entire head and face covered with a wool-type hat as though he was keeping warm," the police report says.

Tompkins was a 1979 high school National Merit Scholar and a graduate of the University of California, according to Crestline Courier-News in Southern California's Inland Empire.

Women In Black will stand vigil for Tompkins at noon Wednesday outside the Seattle Justice Center at Fifth Avenue and Cherry Street. The vigil will also honor two other men: Zachary Lewis, 37, who died from blunt-force injuries and was found dead in a vacant lot on Capitol Hill on March 6; and Robert Willcoxson, a man in his 20s who died recently at Harborview Medical Center.

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