Monday, July 02, 2007

Wade Steffey Case Closed?

If you believe a report prepared by The Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc., Wade Steffey's death is all very explainable. He got drunk at a fraternity party at which no witnesses reported seeing him drink, stumbled back to Owen Hall to retrieve his coat from a dorm room where he had left it earlier and where he consumed alcohol with other students before heading to the party with those same students, was unable to get into the locked dormitory, made numerous, unexplained phone calls on his cell phone, went around to the back of the dorm, climbed down into a pit outside a utility vault, found an exterior door open or unlocked, kicked off one of his shoes outside the door, kicked the other shoe off after he entered the room, climbed behind a transformer by either going over or under a cable running from the wall to the transformer, and then inserted his left ring-finger into a recessed conductor and electrocuted himself to death. The area where Steffey's body was found was as narrow as 13.5" and no wider than 2 feet. The hole into which he stuck his left ring-finger had a diameter of 0.88". That's one freak accident.

Death was caused by accidental electrocution. We knew this the day after his body was found because the Tippecanoe Co. Coroner announced this finding before a medical examination of Steffey's body had been completed. Toxicology results show his blood alcohol level was greater than .08 but less than a lethal level, whatever that's supposed to mean. If the toxicology report indicates a blood alcohol level, then just tell us what it was--not that it was more than the legal limit but less than a lethal level. It's surprising they could even make that finding after his body went unnoticed for two months. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Allen Griggs. He is a part-time pathologist who doubles as a personal injury attorney in Martinsville and has been contracted by the Marion Co. Coroner's office to assist Dr. Joye Carter with autopsies.

The report finds nothing unusual about the failure of a Purdue staff member to discover Steffey's body days after he disappeared by opening an interior door, turning on an interior light and looking into the room. Steffey's shoe was found outside the vault in the pit two days later by a volunteer worker but police did not make a connection to Steffey's disappearance. The report skips over the fact that his body was discovered two months later after students returning from spring break heard a cracking noise coming from the room. I guess the electrical current didn't really get fired up until two months later, given the maintenance worker neither heard nor smelled anything unusual when he originally checked the room.

I encourage you to read the report. It's as convincing as the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

UPDATE: Toxicology experts tell the Lafayette Journal Courier the blood alcohol level claim is suspect. It reports:

Two other toxicology experts, not involved in the Steffey case or with the Rimkus report, agreed. Michael Evans, president and chief executive officer of the American Institute of Toxicology Laboratories in Indianapolis, said a body, particularly one that has not been discovered for nine weeks, can produce alcohol after death.

"The blood-alcohol level obtained at the time of autopsy may not reflect the blood-alcohol at the time of death. You have to take those things into account before you start making a statement," Evans said.

"Maybe there are other explanations for the alcohol being present in the blood, like fermentation or contamination."

Tim Eastly, adjunct professor of chemistry and environmental technology at Youngstown State and Kent State universities in Ohio, said it is very difficult to approximate blood-alcohol results from a person dead that long.

"After nine weeks, I would hold those alcohol results highly suspect," he said. "At autopsy, it's rather tricky for an autopsy technician to get an uncontaminated sample. If there is trauma to where the pulmonary cavity may have been interrupted or torn, it could very well be that some of the alcohol could have been contributed by microbes in the digestive track."


Unknown said...

Sounds pretty plausible to me. What do you think really happened? Who's the grassy knoll shooter in this case?

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding? They had Dr. Allen "Ambulance Chaser" Griggs do the autopsy? The guy is not even a certified forensic pathologist.

Anonymous said...

Well at least Griggs has a doctorate. In Marion County, we've got a freaking chropractor.

A bone cracker doing autopsies.

Lord help us.

Anonymous said...

The kid was only "legally intoxicated." That means he may or may not have been what most folks consider "drunk." Even with that, if the door was open, a small animal could have taken the shoe outside. Dogs smell things a lot better than we do, so there is no telling what animals had smelled and investigated the body.

As far as being electrocuted, while the opening was only .88, I have gotten shocked by home outlets with openings around .1" (if that). So he easily could have been electrocuted. Looking at the confined space area tells me that with most rooms like this, you get to enter "pitch black areas." My feeling is that he knew or thought there was another door on the other side of the room that opened into the dorm area. He got lost in the dark, may have been a little buzzed or even totally intoxicated, and while trying to feel around, his finger his this hole. With a bunch of kids, who were likely drinking themselves, maybe illegally, saying "I don't recall...", what do you expect. This is a notorious problem, especially if the host of the party knew underage kids were drinking or if your asking underage kids who were drinking themselves. Even though the likelyhood of arrest are slim, any statements they make could still be used against them for a code of conduct violation. No wonder they "don't recall" anything. There is also the issue of being outted. Given what some folks have said about Steffey on previous posts here, maybe they fear getting labled due to association. Considering there is no proof of those allegations, I am not going to go into anymore detail. I have also seen a lot of "if he were so drunk, how did he do x, y, and z." Well folks, there is a point when yes, getting too much alcohol will shut your body down, causing you to black/pass out. That being said, there is a large gap between that and being buzzed. It is just like the kid at Ball State. A witness saw the kid extremely drunk laying by a tree, so the relatives are saying there is no way he could have charged the officer. However, he obviously could walk, as he walked to the home. He also walked around the home and was trying to break into the door. So yes, you can be drunk enough to lose your shoe, but still move around.

Anonymous said...

Here, on a gay-oriented blog, 75 miles from Purdue, months later, from an anonymous 6 AM visitor, we get what is probably the most-plausible explanation yet:

In the dark, having found his way into a room, he's trying to find his way out, and accidentally sticks his finger into a socket.

It's logical, drunk or sober.

What is not logical is Purdue's miserable search attempts. And their lack of proper locks. And the time between his disappearance and discovery.

I still have a heavy heart for this kid's family. Seldom does so senseless a death get so much attention, some of it scandalous.

He died too soon. Let's just leave it at that, OK? I have a child at Purdue. I've written the administration and all trustees asking them to beef up their security in all ways.

Rest in peace, Wade Steffey.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I encourage you to look at the diagrams in the report which show the layout of the utility vault as well as the tight space into which Steffey had to crawl and position himself to bring about the electrocution. Where he went once he got into the room is completely illogical.

Anonymous said...

I encourage you to look at the diagrams in the report which show the layout of the utility vault as well as the tight space into which Steffey had to crawl and position himself to bring about the electrocution. Where he went once he got into the room is completely illogical.

I just read the report. Are you trying to spin something here? In your original blog post you stated "no witnesses reported seeing him drink" at the fraternity party, however the reports state he was seen drinking earlier in the day at 8:30. Not only that, witness statements and phone logs clearly shot a picture of "drunk dials" to me. My guess it that this was just a case of a drunk college kid who knew a back way into the dorm (the report confirms a door from the electrical room to the main area of the dorm). He likely tripped on wires in the room (most of these rooms do have large wires on the floor). Maybe his intoxication caused him to crawl into an area and when he tried to get up he was accidently electrocuted?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anon 9:27, don't twist my words. If you read my post, I clearly state he returned to Owen Hall to "retrieve his coat from a dorm room where he had left it earlier and where he consumed alcohol with other students before heading to the party with those same students."