July 16, 2018

Remembering Janice Ott and Denise Naslund

Sunday, July 14, 1974.  Bastille Day in France and an unusually sunny, warm day in Seattle, Washington.  For Washingtonians that are relentlessly outdoorsy, this was a perfect day to spend at one of the local lakes.

At Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, roughly 20 miles east of Seattle,  some 40,000 people had descended on the park, including employees from Rainier Beer; Rainier was holding its annual picnic at the park.  By noon, the temperatures hit 90 degrees.

Jan in June 1974. She had less than a month to live. 
She's wearing the same shorts she would wear on July 14, 1974.
Janice Ott was one of the 40,000 people to flood the park that day.  Petite (only 5'1") with long blonde hair and grey-green eyes, Jan was still a newlywed, having married her husband Jim the year before.  A probation officer in Seattle, she had moved from the larger, busier city to Issaquah, feeling the smaller community was safer after her car was broken into.  She lived with a roommate, as her husband was in school in California, and was known for her sunny, bubbly personality.

Jan had spent the morning of the 14th doing laundry at her local laundromat and then having a cup of coffee with a friend she met and made there.  Returning to her apartment, she pulled on a black bikini, cut-off shorts and a white blouse she tied at her midriff, left a note for her roommate that she would be sunning herself at Lake Sammamish, and then hopped on her yellow Tiger bike for the quick ride.

Jan, who looked much younger than her 23 years, was such a pretty, sparkling girl that she was noticed by others, who watched her take out her towel, kick off her shoes, remove her blouse and shorts and apply cocoa butter to her skin.  Unfortunately for Jan, she was also a caring, compassionate person who, having studied psychology and the anti-social personality while in school, felt she could handle herself as well as lend a hand to others.

As she had been spotted upon arrival, she was also noted when, after being approached by a young man with his arm in a sling, she got up, re-dressed and left with him, pushing her bike.  It was around 12:30 and the last time Janice Ott was ever seen alive.

A school photograph of Denise
Denise Naslund had also chosen to spend this glorious Sunday at Lake Sammamish.  The 19 year old was a stunning girl with long dark hair and dark eyes.  A friendly girl, she had ambition to be more than just a secretary in life.  She was taking computer programming classes and paying for them by working as an office helper.

She had spent the earlier part of the day with her boyfriend of nearly a year and another couple.  The group had socialized, enjoying each other's company, and drank some beer and smoked a joint. When they decided to soak up the fresh air and sun at Lake Sammamish, they took Denise's car, a gift from her mother.  Denise's mother thought owning her own car would keep Denise safe.  The four friends arrived at Lake Sammamish in the afternoon, after Janice Ott had walked off with the mystery man.

The foursome, still high from beer, pills and the joint they smoked, had eaten hot dogs for lunch while at the park and then dozed off in the sunshine.  Denise had awoken around 4:30 and, noticing her dog, whom she had brought with her, was gone, headed off on her own to look for it and find the women's restrooms.  She was spotted in the restroom by a Seattle policewoman, who left the building at the same time Denise did.  She then vanished.

The man with his arm in a sling was noted by several women around that same time.  Denise's friends  would later say that Denise would always help someone in need and was friendly; more so, if she was under the influence.

Like Janice Ott, Denise had simply walked off, dressed in her blue halter top, cut-off jean shorts and Mexican style sandles.  The dog would return to Denise's boyfriend and friends; Denise would not.  She left them behind, as well as her car, with her handbag locked in the trunk.  

These most recent disappearances, after months of young women vanishing in the Seattle area, put residents on edge.  Jan was a mature and responsible woman; Denise had been warned by her mother of Washington State's missing women. Neither had a reason to voluntarily leave their lives.

Searches for both your women began immediately.  The lake itself was searched, as well as the park and wooded areas close by.  While many articles of clothing, underwear and bathing suits were discovered, neither Jan nor Denise was found, nor anything belonging to them.

Local authorities were baffled.  The killer had struck out in the open, in broad daylight - - the first abduction not to occur at night.  And he had taken two young women within the space of four hours.

For nearly two months, the fates of Jan and Denise would be unknown, until a hunter in Issaquah stumbled upon their remains and that of a third body, which would be unidentified until Ted Bundy's end of life confessions in 1989 where he disclosed the body had been that of Georgann Hawkins, who was abducted in June of 1974.  All three were found only two miles from Lake Sammamish State Park.

As is the case with other Bundy victims, the victims were overshadowed by the victimizer.  Jan and Denise were remembered more for their killer, and their horrific ends in this "double event" Bundy staged and committed, than the kind, generous people they were.  For the Ott and Naslund families, this tragedy was compounded by their daughters' remains being "misplaced" or "lost" by King County authorities when the department moved.

Janice Ott would never celebrate a second anniversary with her husband.  She was reportedly planning to join her husband in September - - the same month her body was discovered - - in California.  She never got the opportunity.  

Denise Naslund would never finish her computer course, never return to the bedroom in her mother's house with her guitar and stuffed animals.  Her mother would keep Denise's room unaltered, exactly as she left it, along with Denise's car parked out front, until she herself died in 2000.

Janice Anne Blackburn Ott
February 14, 1951 - July 14, 1974

Denise Marie Naslund
January 1, 1955 - July 14, 1974

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