Update, Feb. 17: Police said Wednesday they discovered the body of Christopher Woitel in a “three-foot crawl space” above his bathroom inside his residence, as they searched the apartment on Feb. 15.
“Personnel from the San Francisco Fire Department arrived and needed
to cut a hole in the ceiling in order to retrieve Mr. Woitel’s remains,” police said in a news release. “Investigators determined that Mr. Woitel likely accessed the crawl space from the roof of the building and not from inside his apartment.”
It’s unclear how Woitel died; the results of an autopsy are pending.
Original story: Christopher Woitel, a 50-year-old Mission District resident who had been missing for more than a month, was found dead in his apartment building on Guerrero and Market streets on Monday, according to his family.
“Today, the San Francisco Police Department and the Medical Examiner notified us that they have located Chris,” the family said through Mark Guarino, a childhood friend of Woitel’s who has been acting as a spokesman.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you of Chris’ passing,” they added. “Please help us by preserving Chris’ legacy in your memories. Thank you for your love and caring support through these very difficult times.”
The cause of Woitel’s death is unclear, as an autopsy is pending, Guarino said. Also unclear is where inside the apartment building police found Woitel’s body. Woitel entered his apartment on the night of Jan. 8, but surveillance footage never captured him leaving.
Over the course of a month, police, the building manager, and private investigator searched Woitel’s apartment and did not find him inside, so it is unlikely police found Woitel inside his apartment on Monday.
As Mission Local detailed in an article published Friday, the circumstances surrounding Woitel’s disappearance were strange and, at times, grim. In the days before he went missing on Jan. 9, he had been sending his friends and family paranoid messages about the D.C. Capitol riots and his desire to escape to the mountains. Those messages suddenly stopped on the afternoon of Jan. 9.
One possible key to understanding Woitel’s sudden disappearance, the family believed, was his ongoing relationship with a man named “Bood,” a transient Woitel had known for years and often allowed to stay at his apartment. In late January, Bood wrote on Facebook that he knew Woitel was dead — that he had been “jumped and robbed for his computers.”
When the private investigator paid a visit to Bood at an Emeryville homeless encampment on Feb. 2, Bood was in possession of Woitel’s cell phone, which he claimed to have purchased from Woitel. Bood also told the private investigator that Woitel had been “shot” and his body had been dumped in the bay at the end of Mariposa Street.
However, it remains unclear how Woitel died — and his body was found at his apartment building, not in the bay.
Guarino, a close childhood friend of Woitel’s from the Chicago area, described Woitel as the ideal childhood friend. “He was inquisitive, adventuresome and, as a voracious reader, very smart,” Guarino said.
“At a very young age, he showed compassion for the vulnerable, including animals, and it was a quality that continued into adulthood,” Guarino added. “He was a gentle soul with a very big heart. Everyone who knew him remembers him fondly. He will be missed.”
Woitel’s generosity would be felt by others as he moved through life and eventually to San Francisco. Neighbors knew him as someone they could call on for help with their computers or electronics.
One of his neighbors, Hargan Nelson, said that just before the pandemic lockdown in March, Woitel helped him seek medical treatment when Nelson’s kidneys suddenly started to fail. He rode with Nelson in the ambulance and stayed at his side at the hospital.
“I would have died if it weren’t for him,” Nelson said, sitting at his kitchen table on Wednesday afternoon. “I owe him my life.”
Woitel’s neighbors also said he was a friend to homeless residents, often bringing them meals and sometimes letting them use his shower.
Woitel’s younger brother, Michael, told Mission Local last week that his brother was “a very giving soul” and “a nonviolent person.”
“He’s definitely a guy you’d want in your corner if you ever wanted someone there for you,” he said.
We will update this story if and when more information becomes available.