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Misty Upham's Family Claims Racism Involved In Lack Of Police Action To Search For Missing Actress

| Oct 18, 2014 12:03 PM EDT

Misty Upham's family has accused Washington authorities of racism and neglect for ignoring their pleas to find the missing Native American actress, who was found dead on Thursday by a search party coordinated by friends and family.

Upham's body was found at the bottom of a 150-foot ravine near a river in a wooded area of Auburn, Washington.

Tracey Rector, a friend of the family and their spokeswoman, told The Washington Post that relatives feel they were blown off by Auburn police and that long-standing racial tensions between local Native Americans and police may have played a role in their lack of concern.

"The family pleaded for the police department to look for her; they pleaded for dogs," Rector said of Upham, who was reported missing by her father, Charles, on Oct. 6. At the time police said they did not consider the "August: Osage County" actress to be "endangered," The Post reported.

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"Unfortunately, it feels like 1950's racism in many ways," Rector added. "The family is concerned that Misty was considered just another Native person and treated as such. Even that is unacceptable. Native lives matter. It doesn't matter what her skin color was."

Steve Stocker, commander of the Auburn police, admitted that no search party was formed for Upham, but denied accusations they neglected the case.

"We felt like we put effort into it; the family obviously doesn't believe that the efforts were enough but we handled it as we felt was appropriate," Stocker told The Post.

The commander said the detective assigned to the case was actively pursing leads about where Upham, 32, went after she was last seen leaving her sister's apartment on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation on Oct. 5. But none of the leads led investigators to where Upham was found in the steep ravine next to the White River.

"We did take it seriously," Stocker told the newspaper. "Our detective put a lot of time into it. The detective is very sad over this, because she was really hoping to find Misty."

As of Saturday it is unclear why or how the actress, who suffered from bipolar disorder and depression, ended up at the bottom of the ravine. Her family released a statement Friday on Facebook saying Upham was trying to avoid the police due to an incident that occurred before she went missing.

"She did not commit suicide. We believe she ran into the wooded area behind her apartment to hide from the police. The area in question has a hidden drop off and evidence suggests that she slipped and fell off the steep embankment when she tried to get out of view from the road."

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