Sunday, March 18, 2007

Please remove me from your mailing list.

This was a strange weekend. I don't do a lot of hands-on work with bodies much any more, but I got involved in two death investigations this weekend. The guy in the car yesterday, and today was an 80 year old man who shot himself while his girlfriend was in the next room.

The place my victim and his girlfriend lived in was a clean little one-bedroom condo with a balcony. The place is newer construction, and had nice oatmeal carpeting throughout. The walls were still bright landlord white, but covered with artwork.

You get a vivid picture, sometimes, just standing in someone's home and looking around at their stuff. The guy today had served in 3 wars--WWII, Korea and Vietnam. They had bookshelves along one entire wall of the living room, full of interesting volumes, and you could tell he'd traveled. He had shadow boxes on the wall showcasing his military achievements, and had several antique pistols in another. I liked this guy, and I respected him.

He had Alzheimer's and was failing physically as well. We recovered 11 different prescription medications. Not only did he need a walker, but his equilibrium had gone to the point that someone needed to practically hold him by his belt to keep him upright while he used it. Everyone described him as being a very proud man, and he'd grown increasingly frustrated at his physical weakening and at his failing memory. According to his girlfriend, he was trying to find something and was looking through paperwork and books. As he looked for whatever it was he was looking for, and couldn't remember, he became more and more upset.

While we were there we noticed books removed from the bookshelves; some were placed on the floor in small stacks, and some were placed in a brown paper Trader Joe's bag. There were 15 or 20 envelopes, some open, of junk mail on the floor in front of the sofa. It looked like someone had been going through them and tossed them there.

The girlfriend told us that he suddenly walked into the bedroom, and then she heard the gunshot. She looked up and saw him on the floor, and she called 911. There was no doubt he was dead.

After we finished with the scene, and his body had been removed, I did one more walk-through of the condo. I hadn't noticed this before, but there it was, a note in a typewriter on a table between the living room and the kitchen. It wasn't a suicide note, but I thought that, given the scattered mail on the floor and girlfriend's account of my man's agitation, it was an indicator of just how angry and frustrated he was.

There was only one line typed near the top of this page. I can't replicate the exact typos and improper capitalization, but it read:

pLEASE Remove ME from YOUR mailing liST.


Johnny Yen said...

Bubs, that is one of the most moving things I have ever read. Thank you for sharing it.

I think, seriously, of Hunter S. Thompson, how frustrated he must have felt at the end, as he felt his faculties slipping-- he was a brilliant writer.

This gentleman must have been very good at what he'd done in his life-- military and whatever else he'd accomplished. Like my grandfather, who also had a rich life of accomplishment-- a man with a fourth grade education, who raised four children, sending two of them to college-- at the end of his life was in constant confusion because of Alzheimer's, dislocated, because of the disease by time, place, and even sometimes people. The gentleman you dealt with must have felt, at the end, that choosing the time of his departure was the last bit of dignity he had left.

Mob said...

I can't imagine what we'll all end up losing, and I can honestly understand choosing the time you want to go if your quality of life is getting to the point that you're simply existing at that age.

I don't believe I've ever been aware of what you do for a living Bubs, is there a specific post I should look for, or would you elaborate a bit, please?

EMT, coroner, etc?

Bubs said...

mob, I'd like to be referred to as a pioneering narcozoologist, but that hasn't taken off for me yet. I'm known in my other life as a detective sergeant.

Johnny, your grandfather sounds like quite a man. Hopefully everyone has enough good memories to lessen the pain of the sad ones.

I thought about HST, glad you mentioned him. What bothers me about some gunshot suicides, especially ones like HST's or the guy yesterday, is the "f*ck you" aspect. I understand wanting to have control of your destiny, and wanting to make an exit on your terms, but there's some real anger at doing it in a way that leaves a lasting impression on a loved one.

Dale said...

This type of post and your singular brilliance in the field of narcozoology is exaclty why I'm on your mailing list Bubs. I'd say well executed but you know...

lulu said...

You know, I read this and immediately thought of my father. Unfortunately, given his deteriorating physical and mental condition, this doesn't seem out of the question, although he doesn't have guns.

What was it the Who said "Hope I die before I get old."?

Melinda June said...

What a moving story, bubs.

You're right about gun suicides. There's something extra horrible about them because of the anger, and the horrid aftermath they leave for their loved ones. A guy I knew in college had always been a little nuts, but about a year ago he called his brother and asked him to come over to help him with something, and by the time his brother got there he'd shot himself in the head in his living room. I suppose he was worried about no one finding his body, but how horrible for his brother.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'll bet you can wait to see what tomorrow brings.

How very sad for the old guy to go out in such a way. Dramatic yes, but how horrible for his girlfriend (and the cleaners).

Mob said...

Detective Sergeant? I had no idea.

Everyone has a grown up job except me.

Anonymous said...

I learned somewhere that Las Vegas is the #1 suicide site not just because it's Vegas, but also because the careful planners want to make sure no loved one finds the body.


Coaster Punchman said...

That is intense Bubs. How do you unwind after work on days like this?

Bubs said...

CP, I take a few deep breaths while I sit in my car in the driveway when I get home, before I come into the house. It's really not bad.

Shirmp, I am now officially obsessed with Las Vegas suicide. I looked it up, and Nevada routinely leads the nation in suicide rate, and the rates for Las Vegas are like four times higher than comparable cities. Most cities have a suicide rate (we're talking for visitors) of roughly 1/100 per visitor deaths. Las Vegas is 1/25 suicides per visitor deaths. Whew.

mob, if you knew me this could hardly be classified as a grownup job. I'm essentially play-acting at being a grownup, but so far it's working and only a few people have ever caught on to what a fraud I am.

Barbara, there's actually some amusing backstory to this that I didn't write about. After I wrote this I realized it seemed sadder than I meant it to. The girlfriend had cousins to stay with so she didn't have to go back to the condo, and we arranged for a social worker to come and help the family out. Finally, we referred them to a company that specializes in crime and death scene cleanup. I covered up the bloody area of the carpet so they wouldn't see it if they came in for something, and the service will have it cleaned up within a day.

Melinda, exactly. The worst was one Thanksgiving about 18 years ago where the guy excused himself from the table and did it with a shotgun in the next room. Happy holidays, huh?!

Lulu, it's hard isn't it. I'm sorry about your dad. My dad died almost 10 years ago after a short stay in the hospital. My family has been lucky that we generally seem to go after a brief illness, without a long lingering decline.

Dale, thanks!

justacoolcat said...

Famous last words.