John Peck reflects on the year since his nephew Jeremy Peck disappeared in West Seattle under suspicious circumstances. --- Inset: Jeremy's ashes and a photo montage adorn John's mantle.
“I cry every day”: The one year anniversary of Jeremy Peck’s suspicious disappearance approaches
It has been almost a year since John Peck saw his nephew for the last time. Jeremy Peck, the 24-year-old man known by friends for his stellar sense of humor and Norman Rockwell-worthy smile disappeared on Christmas Eve 2010 after a night out for drinks with friends in West Seattle.
Twenty five days later Jeremy’s body washed up along the shore of Bainbridge Island, discovered by a man out for a walk on Manitou Beach.
The coroner’s office reported an undetermined cause of death, his body in no condition to decipher any additional clues after nearly a month in the Sound (although people close to the case said they were told by coroners he drowned). Police are calling it a suspicious death for now, and John calls it murder – a murder, he suspects, at the hands of a close friend: a man Jeremy and he bowled with, a man whose house he worked on, a man Jeremy spent the day drinking bloody marys and watching football with just a few weeks before he disappeared.
While this man and one other were named in a search warrant affidavit as people of interest in Jeremy’s case, no arrests have been made. Seattle Police say the investigation is still active and ongoing.
For John, it’s been the toughest year of his life and with Jeremy’s Dec. 10 birthday and the holiday season in full swing, the memory triggers have been unrelenting.
“It’s been hard this month,” John said. He went to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving although he felt like staying home. Jeremy’s favorite meal was mashed potatoes, gravy and corn (the dish was served at his wake after the funeral).
“I have a hard time with the mash potatoes, gravy and corn thing now,” he said. “When I have it I start crying. It’s hard; I can’t look at them the same any more.”
John is Jeremy’s uncle in relative terms, but since the mid-90s he acted as his father. Jeremy and his sister were brought to Seattle from Eastern Washington by their dad (John’s brother) who, after losing their mother to Huntington ’s disease, didn’t have an interest in raising the children, John said.
“He came over to watch the horse races and said ‘I’m going to leave you with your uncle,’ and he never came back to get them. I knew what was going on, but (the children) didn’t know. But we all did well, we did good, we took care of them and made it alright.”
A few years before the kids came into his life, John lost his best friend to suicide on Dec. 10.
“So when I got Jeremy I quit drinking my sorrows away and being sad and started having birthdays instead,” he said. “I used to wonder what that was all about; Greg must have sent me Jeremy … but now they are both gone and now December 10th is back.”
A close suspicion and crumbling social network
Within days of Jeremy’s disappearance John said he had a strong suspicion their friend (and a person of interest for Seattle Police) was involved based upon inconsistencies in his story about that Christmas Eve night when Jeremy was last seen getting into a white BMW with two other males.
After Jeremy’s body was discovered a witness came forward to police. While driving home from work around 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, the man saw two males dump something heavy over the railing of the lower Spokane Street Bridge into the Duwamish River. He told police he thought he saw body parts in the heavy mass. The two men were next to a white BMW, a very close match to the vehicle one of people of interest had borrowed and was driving at the time. Cell phone records placed one of the men within a block of the bridge shortly before the eyewitness account.
When the search warrant affidavit containing the above information was released in July and John was interviewed by a slew of reporters, he said his hopes spiked.
“It was the best thing to ever happen to me during this whole thing,” he said, finally sensing momentum in the case and vindication for his suspicions of a close friend. That suspicion has come at a great cost, fracturing John’s social network and getting him kicked out of his favorite bars for confronting the man he suspects in those establishments.
“All the people we used to hang out with have now dissipated,” John said. “My family, my friends, my places to go; everything is gone. I sit here by myself; I’ve sat on the edge of my bed and watched sports for a year. That’s what I do, I stay in my room.”
John hasn’t lost hope. He believes police are still making progress on the case and, one day, news will break that arrests have been made.
“I don’t even know what would happen if it were to end right now, I don’t know where I’d be at,” he said. “I’d be like, ‘OK, nothing to yell about anymore, time to go back to work.’ It’s been a rush; it’s been like riding a big wave.”
“I cry every day,” John said, adding he talks to Jeremy often, mostly giving him updates on how his sister is doing. She was recently released from incarceration and is making progress getting back on track, securing a steady job in a tough economy. The siblings were incredibly close, “like twins,” John said.
Jeremy’s ashes and photos are displayed on John’s fireplace mantle, homage to his son’s great smile and generous aura that his friends and family remember so well.
“I’m sure I’ll return to my normal self sooner or later,” John said. “Not my normal-normal, but my new normal.”
“Things will never be the same.”