Former child actor Joe Pichler, who appeared in two of the “Beethoven” comedies, has been missing for a week, and relatives and authorities disagree on whether writings he left in his car included a suicide note.
Relatives and others joined police, emergency workers and tracking dogs in unsuccessful efforts to find Pichler, now 18, since his empty car was found Jan. 9 at an intersection above a narrow arm of water called the Port Madison Narrows in Bremerton, about 15 miles west of Seattle.
In the car was a note in which he wrote about wishing to be a “stronger brother” and asking that his belongings go to a younger brother, his family said.
“There’s a good indication that it might have been a suicide, but we don’t know that,” Detective Robbie Davis, the lead investigator, said Monday. There is no reason to suspect foul play, he added.
But relatives don’t believe the two pages of writings, which also included poetry, amounted to a suicide note, they said.
In a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press, Pichler’s mother criticized investigators, saying police have given her the impression they believe her son is dead. “He could be in someone’s basement,” she said. “He could be wandering the streets hurt.”
Kathy Pichler said police released the car to the family without fully processing it for evidence: “They haven’t fingerprinted his car. They sifted through it. They were in his apartment for about three minutes. They’ve done nothing.”
Davis said he believed the car had been dusted for fingerprints, but couldn’t say for sure because he was alone in the office and the investigators’ report was not available Monday.
“We have done just about all we can do,” the detective said.
Joe Pichler, a native of Bremerton, was in a commercial for a Seattle department store at age 6. He moved to Los Angeles and appeared in “The Fan” in 1996, “Varsity Blues” in 1999, and the third and fourth installments of the “Beethoven” series, featuring the humorous adventures of a St. Bernard, in 2000 and 2001.
In 2002, he had a leading role in the film “Children on Their Birthdays,” a coming-of-age tale based on a short story by Truman Capote. His TV appearances include a part in “Touched by an Angel.”
He returned to Bremerton to live full time in 2002 at the urging of his mother and graduated last year from Bremerton High but never lost his passion for acting, his family said.