Newport Shores residents stumbled upon a grisly discovery in their backyard Sunday evening when the body of a missing Reston woman was found floating off the shore of Lake Newport in the North Reston neighborhood
According to police, the body of a woman was discovered shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday along the shoreline of Lake Newport behind the 1400 block of Waterfront Road. On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that the body had been positively identified as that of Shin Sook Lee, 72, a Reston resident missing since Oct. 3.
A man and his son were canoeing around Lake Newport in the evening when they found the woman's body floating face down in knee-deep water near one of the Newport Shores docks, said David Williams, whose home overlooks the lake just yards from were the discovery was made. Williams was on his back porch when he said the two canoeists spotted the body floating in some "swamp willows."
Fairfax County police public information officer Sgt. Jeffrey Gossett reported that investigators were not sure how long the body had been in the water before neighbors spotted it, but he said it appeared to have been in the water for a few days. Gossett also said that there were no "visible signs" of foul play, according to homicide detectives on the scene. The investigation and the cause of death are ongoing, the police spokesman said. As per police protocol, Gossett said that investigators are treating the case "as if it were a homicide until we are told otherwise."
An autopsy was performed on Tuesday, according to police. Until then, it was too early for authorities to publicly identify the body or the woman's race, Gossett said on Monday.
"The death appears to be accidental and foul play is not believed to be involved," police said Tuesday. "Next-of-kin has been notified."
Lee, who only spoke Korean, had been missing since she walked away from her house on Bayfield Way on Friday, Oct. 2 without any identification or money, according to police reports. Located in the North Point section of Reston, Bayfield Way is blocks away from Lake Newport.
THE TWO WITNESSES who initially spotted Lee's body had rowed in close to shore when they noticed the body, Williams said. It was then that Williams, and a few other nearby neighbors, walked the 10 yards to see what the two men had found. "We were all kind of speculating what it was, but I wasn't sure it was even a person," said Williams. "You could see the torso and the back of the head — it had dark hair. But I couldn't relate to it as a human being. It's close to Halloween so I thought it might have been a joke."
The body was "small" and the victim was wearing tan pants and a long-sleeve jacket, Williams said. According to police reports, Lee, was five feet tall and weighed 120 pounds.
Williams said the father and son who found the body had circled the lake twice looking for turtles before finding the body.
Williams who has owned his lake shore home since it was built nine years ago said, except for the occasional kayaker or canoeist, Lake Newport is "not used a whole lot."
Newport is the smallest of Reston's five man-made lakes. "We've never had any concern about anyone drowning, or anything like that," he said.
While swimming in the lake is prohibited by Reston Association (RA), Williams and John Lopez, the president of the 33-home Newport Shores cluster, said it is not uncommon to see people in the lake.
Lopez said he was comforted by the early reports that there were no signs of foul play. "Obviously, it is unfortunate to have a death in the lake," he said. "Thankfully though, it doesn't look like anything more than a tragic accident."
After first hearing of the discovery, Lopez thought of another body that had been discovered in June 2001 in Reston's Brown's Chapel park which borders his cluster to south. In that case, the disfigured body of 22-year-old Fredy Reyes-Castillo in the parking lot by two people on an early morning walk. "I was fearful at first, but there is no reason to think the two are related," Lopez said.
Lopez had been on his back deck since the end of the Redskins game Sunday afternoon when he heard "all the commotion" in his front yard.
Williams said it took authorities only a few minutes to respond to the initial 911 call around 6 p.m. Shortly there after, the normally quiet cul-de-sac of Waterfront Road was inundated with multiple police cars, fire engines, yellow crime scene tape and a host of flash-light toting homicide investigators.