LAKE STEVENS — She dreams of her sister. In her sleep, she asks Summer Smith who hurt her.
She still is waiting for an answer. Wednesday marks three years since Summer’s bones were found south of Lake Stevens.
Autumn Smith, 22, has imagined how her twin sister’s remains wound up abandoned among heavy brambles. She wonders who sent the odd text messages that came from her sister’s phone before the death was discovered.
She is holding out hope that the killer will be found.
In January 2015, a man was hired to clean a property south of the lake. He discovered a skull.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives combed through more than 30 acres. They found a trash bag containing blood-stained bedding, a knife with a broken blade, screwdrivers, women’s clothing and paperwork belonging to Summer.
The case remains an unsolved homicide. Detectives have exhausted their leads.
Autumn worries someone targeted a young woman who had nowhere to go.
The twin sisters, who grew up in Las Vegas, had taken care of each other from a young age. They spent three years before their 18th birthday in foster care. They fought drug addiction and learned how to live with mental illness.
At one point, they lived in a shelter with other women and children. They would recycle bottles and cans and turn them into something beautiful. Summer aspired to be an artist. She created abstract, acrylic paintings. She would mold clay onto the canvas to make her work look life-like.
“She had gifts and talents she was going to give the world,” Autumn said.
The last time she saw her sister was in 2014, shortly before Summer headed north to Washington. At the time, Autumn was renting an apartment in Las Vegas and had been clean and sober for 50 days. She was 18 and figuring out how to support herself.
Summer knocked on her door looking for a place to stay. Autumn suspected her sister had been using drugs and asked her to leave.
“It was really hard to watch your own sibling basically crumble,” she said. “I didn’t get to say goodbye or ‘I love you.’ ”
Summer traveled mostly between Everett, Lynnwood and Marysville. Autumn has since spoken with people who met her sister here. They said she looked out for others who were homeless. She often shared her food.
In May 2014, a Marysville couple woke to find the teen asleep in their living room. The garage door had been left open. The couple told police they had confronted her about missing medications. She allegedly admitted to swallowing the pills.
The last time Summer spoke with her family was Nov. 19, 2014. Her mother began to worry when December arrived and she hadn’t heard from her daughter. The mother texted Summer, but the responses sounded out of character. One message demanded that she stop sending texts. The mother tried calling, but it went straight to voicemail. By Dec. 12, the teen’s phone was shut off or taken out of service.
Evidence suggests that Summer died before those texts were sent. Her remains were found near Lake Stevens weeks later.
Autumn wonders if her sister ran into the wrong people. She worries for other women who find themselves lost.
Autumn is nearing graduation from beauty school in Las Vegas. She plans to work as a hair stylist, and to offer haircuts to people who are homeless. She serves food at local shelters and has volunteered her time with the Reno Youth Network, which provides a safety net for children who are close to aging out of foster care or have no place to live.
One day, she would like to visit the place where Summer was found. She doesn’t think she is quite ready.
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com.
Anyone with information about Summer Smith’s case can contact the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office anonymous tipline at 425-388-3845.