SPOKANE, Wash. – Authorities found the body of a missing Spokane VA Medical Center surgeon Tuesday morning in the Spokane River.
According to officials, around 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, they got a call of a body in the water on the north bank of Spokane River west of Monroe Street Bridge. Interim Spokane Police Chief Rick Dobrow confirmed preliminary investigations show the body is that of the missing VA surgeon, Dr. John Marshall.
“Through visual identification and clothing, we have preliminarily identified the deceased as the missing VA doctor,” he said.
Investigators are trying to determine how Marshall ended up in the Spokane River just below the trail where he would routinely run along.
Major Crimes Detectives are treating this as a suspicious death. Specific cause of death and positive identification of the body will come from the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office. Chief Dobrow said there are no obvious signs of foul play.
Spokane VA officials responded to his death with this statement:
“We are deeply saddened to learn that local authorities confirmed Dr. John Marshall’s body was found this morning," wrote Bret Bowers with Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center. "Dr. Marshall was a fantastic surgeon who will be deeply missed. He began his career at the VA Medical Center over five years ago. Recently, he was serving as the Acting Chief of Surgery, a role in which he excelled. Patients and staff alike talked regularly about his conscientious, empathetic and respectful nature. A Marine, Army doctor, and combat Veteran, Dr. Marshall was an outstanding surgeon and consummate professional who cared about his patients and dedicated team of VA co-workers. We express our deepest sympathies to his family and all those who were close to him.”
Former patients of Dr. Marshall also said they could not believe the news.
“He was just a really nice guy. You know, down to earth, talk to me like a person, and like I said really just respectful, professional and I liked him a lot. Like I said, I’m just speechless,” said former patient Mike Miller. “The nurses, everybody that I talked to, they told me I was in the best hands that they had and he was the best there, he changed my way of life.”
Police said they began searching for Dr. John Marshall, 49, after he was reported missing on Monday.
Marshall was last seen leaving the YMCA around 5:00 a.m. Monday morning. His wife said he would normally go the gym and then on a run around that time. His most common route was either through Riverfront Park or on the trail near Kendall Yards.
Staff at the VA hospital notified Marshall's family when he did not report for work. Marshall's wife, Suzan, said he has been the chief surgeon at the VA for the last six years.
Suzan said she spent all of Monday in shock. Images from a surveillance camera at the YMCA near North Monroe show that Marshall left around 5:00 a.m. to go for a jog.
"This is his routine to go running at 5:30 in the morning," Suzan Marshall said.
Suzan said her husband would usually be gone for only 30 minutes. That was not the case on Monday.
"His car is here, his phone, his keys, his wallet," she said.
As Chief of Surgery at Spokane's VA Hospital, Dr. Marshall had a full plate Monday -- including several surgeries.
Monday morning though, he never made it back from his run and never went to work.
"He had a lot of patients to see, and wasn't there," Suzan said.
A 4th-generation Marine, Dr. Marshall served in Afghanistan. Dr. Marshall also reportedly received survival training, which included how to spend time in freezing weather.
"I'm optimistic that we'll find him and we haven't found anything bad," Suzan said, "so there's hope that there's something good."
Dr. Marshall had two young children. Suzan said all of this happened just a few weeks before his 50th birthday.