The body found by children playing in the woods Friday in North Yarmouth has been identified as that of Kristin Westra, the Chebeague Island School teacher who was reported missing last week.

Jay and Kristin Westra

Capt. Craig Smith of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that an autopsy conducted Sunday morning by the state medical examiner’s office also determined that the death was a suicide.

Westra’s manner of death has not been disclosed. Smith on Sunday evening said he was not aware that Westra left any suicide note before she disappeared.

Westra, 47, was last seen the night of Sept. 30 when she and her husband, Jay Westra, went to bed. She was gone when her husband woke up the next morning. Both her car and her cellphone were at home.

Law enforcement authorities and volunteers searched for her all week before the body was discovered Friday near Route 115 by two girls walking in the woods less than a mile from the Westra home.

A scheduled prayer vigil on Saturday night turned into an impromptu memorial for Westra, whom friends described as upbeat and positive.

Her husband said in an interview with NBC News that she had been experiencing anxiety and sleepless nights recently. The day before she disappeared Westra was assessed by a licensed clinical nurse practitioner and determined not to be at risk of harm to herself or others.

Smith said the search failed to find Westra’s body in part due to rainy and dark weather conditions when the effort was underway on Monday and Tuesday.

“At the time, the thought was more on a rescue, rather than recovery,” said Smith.

He said Westra’s body was discovered at the top of a ridge by the girls while searchers were looking for her from the bottom of the ridge. Smith said it is possible the searchers could not see her due to the vegetation in the area.

He said the searchers covered an ever-growing area, spiraling out as they went, and that the team had been planning to cover the area where she was found this weekend.

“Tragically, she was found by the two girls who came upon her while walking through the woods,” Smith said.

Westra taught students in grades 3-5 at the Chebeague Island School for more than seven years. The school’s principal and district superintendent, Michael Pulsifer, could not be reached for comment Sunday, but in a previous interview Pulsifer described her as an invaluable member of the school’s education team, often filling in for him when he was unavailable.

A profile of Westra posted on the Chebeague Island School website says she grew up in Burlington, Vermont. She experienced island life at an early age, spending her summers at her family’s camp in North Hero in the Lake Champlain Islands.

She attended the University of Vermont, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology with a minor in German. Westra came from a long line of educators, including her mother and several other family members.

After teaching in Vermont for two years, she moved to Portland. In order for Westra to reach classes on Chebeague Island, she had to take a ferry each day. The Chebeague Island School is a one-room schoolhouse serving students Pre-K through grade five.

A memorial service for Westra will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Congregational Church in Cumberland, said Diane Bennekamper, senior minister at the church, where Saturday night’s impromptu gathering was held.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.