Bank account confusion hurt effort to find missing Tanya Rider

SEATTLE — As Tanya Rider lay trapped and near death in the wreckage of her sport-utility vehicle, a misunderstanding over her bank account hindered investigators for two days in the search for the woman, according to a case file released Monday.

The King County Sheriff’s Office released the 30-plus pages of police reports in part to respond to criticism from Rider’s husband, Tom, that the office should have done more, sooner, to find her. Rider, 33, was trapped for more than a week before she was rescued last Thursday by searchers using cell phone technology to track down her mangled SUV in a ravine southeast of Seattle. She remained in serious condition Monday at Harborview Medical Center here.

The case file says that an investigator was initially told — by Tom Rider and by Tanya Rider’s bank, USAA Federal Savings Bank — that the missing Maple Valley woman was the only person who had access to her account. Because there had been recent transfers and withdrawals, investigators assumed she had just run off.

“If she’s accessing her account, she’s most likely missing voluntarily,” sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart said Monday. “The bank told us she was the only one who had access to her account. Why would we question that?”

The account activity prevented the sheriff’s office from having probable cause to obtain cell phone records that could narrow down her location, Urquhart said. Verizon Communications refuses to share such records unless a police agency promises to provide a search warrant within 24 hours.

Investigators pursued other leads until the misunderstanding was cleared up last Wednesday, six days after Rider was last seen Sept. 20, leaving her job at a Bellevue store. The file says that on Sept. 26, Tom Rider said that he in fact did have access to the account and that he had made the transfers and withdrawals. If he left officers with a different impression, he said, it must have been because he was “so exhausted.”

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