Misty Upham Confirmed Dead: Family Identifies Body, Meryl Streep and Melissa Leo Express Grief

A spokeswoman for Upham's family says the actress/activist's uncle located her body and her father identified it — and neither believe she took her own life
Misty Upham at the 2013 AFI Fest  AP Images/Invision

A spokeswoman for the family of Misty Upham has confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that a body found in a Seattle, Wash. ravine on Thursday afternoon is, as was widely suspected, that of the 32-year-old Native-American actress and activist — best known for her roles in the films Frozen River and August: Osage County — who was first reported missing on Oct. 6. The King County Coroner's Office will address the media about the case on Friday.

According to Seattle-based filmmaker Tracy Rector, a longtime friend of Upham's, it was Robert Upham, the missing woman's uncle and the organizer of a search party that went out looking for her three days ago, who, along with two other searchers, found her body. And it was Charles Upham, her father, who confirmed her identity to the authorities.

"We waited at the site where the team found the body," said Rector, who was also part of the search party, late Thursday evening. "It took about five-and-a-half hours to confirm. Then we gathered around her body to say prayers and now we're all gathered at the church."

Upham's cause of death has not yet been determined. On Oct. 10, her father told THR that Upham suffered from bipolar disorder and was off her medication when she disappeared, leading him to believe that she may have been suicidal. On Thursday night, however, Rector said the family felt differently: "The family has stated that, after seeing the body, they still do not feel that Misty Upham committed suicide."

Read more Father of Missing 'Frozen River' Actress Fears She Is "Suicidal"

Rector also indicated that the family is enraged at the Auburn Police Department for what they say is a lack of assistance in the search to locate Upham. "First and foremost," she told THR, "the family wants everyone to know that the Auburn police did not help with this situation at all. They refused to help. When she disappeared on Oct. 5, the family knew something was seriously wrong — it was out of character for her to be gone so long without being in touch — and they repeatedly went to the police, who insisted there was no cause for concern."

There is apparently a history of hostility between the Auburn police and the Muckleshoot Reservation, on which several thousand Muckleshoot reside, that falls largely within Auburn. According to Rector, "Robert Upham led the search with the help of the Muckleshoot tribal community."

Auburn police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the hours after the news broke, there was a huge outpouring of grief via social media from Upham's friends, fans and colleagues. Additionally, The Hollywood Reporter has obtained comments from two of Upham's most prominent costars, August's Meryl Streep and Frozen River's Melissa Leo.

Streep, who played the matriarch of the family for which Upham served as a caretaker in August: Osage County, wrote, "So so sad to hear this news — all our thoughts are with her family and with her beautiful spirit." Leo, whose character collaborated with Upham's to smuggle illegal immigrants from Canada into America in Frozen River, wrote, "Such a loss... so sad, so so sad. I hope to that her talent is remembered more than any troubles we surely will never understand. She was a smart, delightful actor, a spirit wild and hungry. I know I and others are honored to have had Misty in our lives."

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

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