By ELIZABETH M. GILLESPIE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Former child actor Joe Pichler, who appeared in two of the "Beethoven" comedies, has been missing for a week after leaving what police have characterized as a suicide note.
But family members, including Pichler's mother and oldest sister, say they don't believe the two pages of poetry and other musings the 18-year-old left in his car was a suicide note.
In a telephone interview Monday from her home in Bremerton, Pichler's mother, Kathy Pichler, told The Associated Press that police leveled with her early on in the investigation.
She said a detective told her, "I don't know how to say this to you without sounding really bad, but basically I think your son's dead and it could take months for him to show up in the water.
Bremerton Detective Robbie Davis, the lead investigator, did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.
Pichler's car was found Jan. 9 at anintersection above Port Madison Narrows. Inside it was a note inwhich he said he was sorry he hadn't been a better role model forhis younger brother and asked that his belongings go to 17-year-oldA.J.
Pichler's mother and 26-year-old sister,Shawna Woody, said police released the car to the family withoutfully processing it for evidence that might yield some clues to hisdisappearance.
"They haven't fingerprinted his car.They sifted through it. They were in his apartment for about threeminutes. They've done nothing," Kathy Pichler said.
She said the last outgoing call on herson's cell phone was placed at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 5 to a friend whotold her they had been drinking alcohol earlier that day and hadwritten some poetry together.
"There was no goodbye," she said of thecryptic note.
A native of Bremerton, across PugetSound west of Seattle, Pichler was in a commercial for a Seattledepartment store at age 6. He moved to Los Angeles and appeared in"The Fan" in 1996, "Varsity Blues" in 1999 and the third and fourthinstallments of the "Beethoven" series, featuring the humorousadventures of a St. Bernard, in 2000 and 2001.
In 2002, he had a leading role in thefilm "Children on Their Birthdays," a coming of age tale based on ashort story by Truman Capote. His TV appearances included a part in"Touched by an Angel."
Joe Pichler returned to Bremerton tolive full-time in 2002 at the urging of his mother and graduatedlast year from Bremerton High but never lost his passion foracting, his family said.
"I just wanted him to have some normalcyin his life," Kathy Pichler told the Kitsap Sun. "He's a good boyand took it well, but he wasn't really happy about it."
Woody said she did not sense her brotherhad been despondent. She said he seemed eager to get back intoacting as soon as his braces came off his teeth.
The second-youngest of five children,Joe Pichler lived across town from his parents, A.J. and20-year-old sister, Samantha. Woody said she found it suspiciousthat the door to his apartment was unlocked and the lights were on-- something a neighbor told her was not common for Joe.