Saturday, March 31, 2018
This post discusses observations about my brother’s condition made by his attending physician at the Erie County Medical Center, where Mark was airlifted late on the night of September 23, 2003, following his suspicious truck fire.
Dr. Edward Piotrowski, who administered to Mark at the burn unit, spoke with me several times by telephone in 2005. He acknowledged that he had been very concerned about Mark's condition, emphasizing that he had never seen anyone come in so badly burned, with third-degree and even some fourth-degree burns over about 90% of his body.
In addition to the severity of the burns, Dr. Piotrowski wondered how Mark had got gasoline on his head. He was also concerned about the badly burned state of Mark's hands, including his palms, which indicated to him that he had tried to put the flames out and had thus not been attempting to commit suicide.
Beyond the burns, Dr. Piotrowski expressed concern over soft-tissue swelling on my brother’s forehead, "not in the skin sense, but in a deeper sense," which made him think that Mark might have been hit over the head. He also challenged the very high serum alcohol level recorded in the autopsy report, noting that no blood alcohol test had been performed while Mark was in the burn unit and that only his corpse could have been used for the test. [On the blood alcohol issue, see posts of September 11 and 23 and October 29, 2013, and August 24, 2016.]
Before my conversations with him, Dr. Piotrowski had not known anything about the pool of Mark’s blood found on his driveway the night of the fire. He asked if Mark had suffered from a sinus condition, and I informed him that I had never been aware of my brother having sinus problems. Dr. Piotrowski stated the only other explanation for the mucus would have been a blow to his nose, which he added could easily have caused the pool of blood found in the driveway. He also revealed that, as a further indication that Mark had likely been attacked, there was additional soft-tissue damage on the left side of his face. [On the head wounds, see posts of September 22, 2010, and September 24, 2016.]
Dr. Piotrowski suggested a possible scenario for an attack and murder: first, being punched in the nose, causing the pool of blood in the driveway; next, receiving a blow to the head and further trauma to the face; then, being dragged into the truck, which was backed down the driveway and into the field; finally, gasoline being poured over him and the truck set on fire.
According to my nephew John McKenna, who was at the burn unit in the morning of September 24, shortly before Mark died, Dr. Piotrowski stated that Mark had been doused with a flammable liquid and that it was no accident.
Although very concerned about so many troubling aspects of Mark’s condition, Dr. Piotrowski explained that since no one from the investigation ever questioned him, he assumed that the authorities had an explanation for the events. But it is difficult to understand why the doctor would not talk with Atty. Michael Kelly, who tried to have a conversation with him in the fall of 2005. According to a N.Y. State Police official, when Sen. Inv. John Wolfe finally reached him by telephone, Dr. Piotrowski claimed that he did not remember the case. Yet the doctor had told me that he could not forget Mark’s case, involving such severe burns. Although he stated to me that he would contact an F.B.I. official about his concerns over Mark’s death, to the best of my knowledge he never did.
Does a doctor not have both a legal and an ethical responsibility to report his information and his concerns to the proper authorities in such a case?
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
A recent post (December 31, 2017) raised the question of the identity of the last person to see both my brother Mark and Dale Tarapacki before their respective truck fires. This post takes up a related issue: why were my brother and Tarapacki at the particular place where their trucks so suspiciously went up in flames?
My brother’s truck was observed burning in the field across from his house about 11 p.m. The pool of his blood found in his parking area just off the middle of his driveway, along with wounds observed on his head (see post of September 24, 2016), strongly suggests that the trouble began right there shortly after he pulled up with his truck not long before 11.
As recorded in the New York State Police report, however, the chronology of events that evening is perplexing. As the post of December 2017 indicates, Mark’s wife Susan says in her witness statement that he was home during the day and left for downtown Salamanca about 8:45. Yet it is difficult to understand why no one apparently saw him at any of his usual hangouts in Salamanca that evening or why several people either failed to hear from my brother by phone, as expected, or attempted unsuccessfully to reach him earlier in the day (see post of August 22, 2012). It is also unclear if Mark was about to go into his house after parking his truck, given statements by an eyewitness about Susan’s reaction to his DWI the previous afternoon, including telling him to “pack [his] bags and get the hell out” (see posts of August 22, 2012, and March 3, 2014).
An anonymous letter sent to me states that right before the fire my brother was at the house of a neighbor, who indicated that Mark could not possibly have had the kind of high blood alcohol level reported by the authorities (see post of August 11, 2014). As indicated in previous posts, the identity of that neighbor has not been revealed to me (see August 14, 2015, and December 31, 2017). Moreover, an important question still remains: why was Mark in the parking area of his driveway at that time? Did someone call him when he was at the neighbor’s house, or shortly afterwards, to ask to meet Mark at his home? If so, as he got out of his truck, my brother would certainly have been left vulnerable to an attack by an individual or individuals with malicious intentions.
As mentioned in the post of December 2017, in the case of Dale Tarapacki a reliable source informed me that, according to the Sheriff’s office, he had been going fishing the afternoon of his truck fire. Another previous post (June 13, 2017), however, explains that Tarapacki was in no shape to go for a fishing trip that day. As also indicated in that post, it is unclear if the investigating authorities looked into the credibility of the claim about a fishing trip and the reliability of the witness who made it. Moreover, the location of the truck fire itself works against the likelihood of a fishing expedition. The upper section of Hardscrabble Road where Tarapacki’s truck was found, which is unpaved, does not lead to any fishing areas, has no intersecting roads to turn onto, and soon dead-ends. Those facts make it very unclear what Tarapacki would have been doing on upper Hardscrabble Road the afternoon of his truck fire. Had he received a call from someone asking him to meet there? If so, he was left in a very precarious position indeed on that isolated stretch of road.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
This post raises the issue of disturbing claims about a suicide letter in the deaths of my brother Mark and Dale Tarapacki immediately following their suspicious truck fires. In both cases, death was ultimately ruled “accidental,” in spite of the suspicious circumstances surrounding their truck fires. So it is a matter of concern that in each case one or more individuals claimed to have knowledge of a suicide letter.
As mentioned in a previous post (November 23, 2013), on the very evening of his death, just hours after his horrific truck fire, my brother’s 23-year old daughter Christie told me over the telephone that Mark had left her a suicide letter. Claiming that her father had in fact told her he no longer wanted to live, she stated that the suicide letter he had written began, “By the time you read this, I will be dead.” After I reported this information to the N. Y. S. Police, Christie was questioned by Inv. Edward Kalfas but denied knowing anything about a suicide letter. Mark’s wife Susan also told Inv. Kalfas that she too was unaware of any suicide letter (see also police report). Yet how would Mark’s daughter have failed to mention this purported suicide letter to her mother? Would she also have failed to mention to her mother her phone conversation with me? Although I asked the State Police investigator to look into this issue, he simply dropped it. According to a nephew, Mark’s wife later reportedly changed her story and told another relative that he really did leave a suicide letter (see post of November 23, 2013). No suicide letter was ever produced. It is safe to say none ever existed.
In Dale Tarapacki’s case, according to a reliable source, who felt strongly that he had not taken his own life, someone claimed to have knowledge of a suicide letter. Another reliable source made an even stronger claim about a suicide letter allegedly left by Tarapacki. Yet the circumstances of Tarapacki’s death in a very suspicious truck fire, which has some striking similarities to my brother’s (see posts of July 23, August 24, and September 21, 2016; February 26, April 30, June 13, November 30, and December 31, 2017), also clearly rule out suicide. Since the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s office denied my request for the police report and other relevant materials on Tarapacki’s death, except for the fire investigator’s report (see posts of March 19 and May 19, 2016), it is not clear if they actually investigated this issue.
It is worth pondering what motives a person or persons may have in making claims about a suicide letter when the victim did not leave one.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
This post raises the question of the identity of the last person to see both my brother Mark and Dale Tarapacki before their truck fires. The issue is important since it would help clarify the sobriety, coherence, and state of mind of each of these two victims.
In my brother’s case, the New York State Police report indicates nothing about anyone seeing Mark after his wife's claim in her witness statement that he left for downtown Salamanca about 8:45 that evening, and thus there is no record for my brother’s activities for over two hours prior to the truck fire. As mentioned previously (see post of August 11, 2014), an anonymous letter sent to me states that right before the fire Mark was at the house of a neighbor, who indicated that Mark could not possibly have had the kind of high blood alcohol level reported by the authorities. Previous posts have reported that Todd Lindell informed me that Mark had spent the evening following his DWI (i.e., the night before the truck fire) at Todd’s house (see esp. August 14, 2015). Todd also told me that he had had an “open-door policy” for Mark at his house. Given the reportedly heated reaction of Mark’s wife Susan to his DWI and their strained marital relations in general, it is not surprising that my brother would have been out of the house that evening. But his friends and neighbors whom I contacted were clear that they did not see him the evening of the truck fire. It is difficult to come up with anyone other than Todd Lindell whom Mark would have visited just before the truck fire. It therefore seems strange that there is no mention of Mark’s whereabouts just before the truck in the police report since, according to Mark’s friend Jim Wright, Todd was interviewed by the State Police investigator.
In the case of Dale Tarapacki, a reliable source indicated that the Sheriff’s office stated that Dale had been going fishing the afternoon of his truck fire. Someone must therefore have reported that claim to the Sheriff’s investigators. A previous post indicates that Tarapacki, according to a reliable source, was in no condition to go fishing that day (June 13, 2017). Who offered the information to the authorities that Tarapacki had gone fishing and on what basis? Not only was Tarapacki not in a proper physical state for a fishing expedition; he was also clearly in a difficult professional position, having abruptly—and apparently with considerable tension—quit his job as the pharmacist for a new Native American pharmacy in Salamanca. Did the Sheriff’s office check on the reliability of this witness?