The body of a missing San Francisco computer programmer has been discovered by police inside a small, hidden crawl space above his bathroom more than a month after his disappearance – as investigators say no foul place is suspected in his death.,
The San Francisco Police Department said in a press release on Wednesday that officers initially served a search warrant at 50-year-old Christopher Woitel’s apartment in the Mission District on February 12, looking for evidence of a crime, but found no signs of forced entry and left.
Three days later, on Monday, investigators from the department’s Special Victims Unit returned to the missing man’s apartment on Guerrero Street, accompanied by a team from Crime Scene Investigations, and focused their second search on a small, three-foot-tall crawl space above the bathroom.
Inside, they located Woitel’s body, which police wrote ‘was hidden from plain view.’ It’s unknown as this time how or why the 5-foot-10, 200-pound man ended up inside the tiny space.
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Found: Christopher Woitel, 50, was found dead inside a three-foot-high crawl space above the bathroom at his San Francisco apartment building, more than a month after he was seen on security video going upstairs to his unit
Police recovered Woitel’s body from the crawl space, which they said is only accessible from the roof of this building on Guerrero Street in the Mission District
Firefighters were then called to the scene and cut a hole in the ceiling to retrieve Woitel’s remains.
‘Mr. Woitel likely accessed the crawl space from the roof of the building and not from inside his apartment,’ police stated. ‘Foul play is not suspected in this incident.’
Woitel’s cause of death is pending the medical examiner’s autopsy.
Many questions surrounding Woitel’s January disappearance and death are still unanswered at this time, including how he died, how his body ended up in the crawl space, and why it remained there undiscovered for a month, despite repeated searches conducted by the police, the manager of the building and a private investigator.
In earlier email exchanges with DailyMail.com prior, Mark Guarino, who has been speaking on behalf of Woitel’s family from the time of his disappearance, expressed frustration with the police.
‘The family wanted an investigation soon after he went missing,’ he wrote. ‘The police did not respond to their pleas.’
The police department’s policy dictates that missing persons cases are investigated by officers at the district stations for 30 days, before being transferred to the Special Victims Unit.
Guarino said that is why the family hired Scott Williams, a private investigator, who produced a report indicating that Woitel may have been the victim of foul play and submitted it to the police, seeking for them to take action.
‘It wasn’t until media reports from late last week and the weekend that the police acted,’ Guarino wrote. ‘Sadly, this means his body has been sitting there for over a month.’
It was not until February 10 that the San Francisco Police Department appealed to the public for help in locating the missing man.
The family spokesperson accused the police of failing to act on the investigator’s report in a timely fashion.
‘If they got a warrant that first day and searched the building they would have found his body weeks ago and the evidence would still be fresh, he added. ‘But their delay caused extended grief for the family and evidence to get stale.’
Woitel last contacted his mother through social media a day after his final sighting on surveillance video inside his building on January 8, and had not been heard from since.
Woitel’s mother reported him missing on January 13. She says there had been no activity on his bank account or credit cards for the past month.
Video from January 8 shows Woitel entering his building at 8.38pm, carrying a bottle of wine in his hand
Woitel is seen walking up the stairs to his unit, marking his final sighting
Williams was given access to Woitel’s apartment on Guerrero Street in San Francisco’s Mission District and found his possessions undisturbed and no signs of foul play. The search yielded no clues as to the man’s whereabouts, reported Mission Local.
According to Williams, the apartment building has a back door, but surveillance video from that area did not show Woitel leaving.
‘My gut feeling is something bad happened,’ Woitel’s sister Lara Haben told Mission Local before the discovery of his body.
Woitel’s siblings had traveled from the Midwest and spent the weekend handing out flyers in the Mission District to raise awareness of their brother’s plight, reported KPIX.
They also shared with the outlet footage that shows Woitel, wearing a black face covering, a beanie and a tan-colored jacket, going up the stairs to his unit, with a bottle of wine in his left hand, at 8.38pm on January 8, marking the last time he was seen.
In the days leading up to his disappearance, relatives said Woitel, who has been struggling with depression, was acting paranoid. He expressed concerns about the prospect of supporters of President Donald Trump causing unrest in San Francisco, and told his sister he was hearing explosions and felt ‘unsafe.’
He also asked Haben for money to replace his lost phone and talked about a planned getaway to the mountains.
Family and friends have described Woitel as a kind-hearted and generous man who has been known to bring food and open his home to people down on their luck, including some of San Francisco’s numerous homeless.
Woitel communicated with his mother on January 9 and had not been heard from since; his bank account and credit cards had not been used
‘It was always a little concerning, and he didn’t really like to talk to me about it too much because I would always say, “What are you doing, why are you doing that?”‘ friend Jennifer Berg told the San Francisco Examiner.
Williams, the private investigator, told the Mission Local that he has located a homeless man who is believed to be among the last people to visit Woitel at his apartment before his mysterious disappearance.
The man, who goes by the nickname ‘Bood,’ was allegedly found to be in possession of Woitel’s cellphone, which he said the computer programmer had sold him for $100.
According to Williams, the man claimed to have psychic abilities and told him that Woitel had been ‘shot in the head and wrapped in plastic’ during a robbery by a group of men before his body was thrown into the San Francisco Bay.
‘It is clear [the man] suffers from mental illness and as such could be delusional,’ the investigator said.
Woitel was said to be infatuated with Bood and would spend his money on whatever the man wanted. According to a friend, Woitel allowed the homeless man to stay at his apartment and paid his phone bills.
Woitel’s siblings, including sisters Kathy Flynn (left) and Lara Haben (right) had traveled from the Midwest this weekend to pass out fliers in the Mission District
Two days before Woitel vanished, surveillance video inside his building caught Bood entering his apartment, and leaving the following morning.
On the eve of Woitel’s disappearance, he sent Bood an angry, expletive-laden message on Facebook, accusing him of using his social media account to ‘harass people.’
‘You f***ing a**hole!’ Woitel reportedly wrote to Bood. ‘DONE. THAT’S IT. ENOUGH. You are on your own. You are far too much trouble…Don’t ever come here again!’
Woitel’s friend speculated that it is unlikely that Bood harmed the man himself because he has trouble walking due to a leg injury.
Woitel’s neighbor also revealed to the Mission Local that the programmer has been trying to avoid two friends, whom he described as ‘thugs from the underworld.’