Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Second Follow-up on a Comment to the Blog on the Dale Tarapacki Case

This post follows up on more of the information included in an anonymous comment sent in to this blog on April 10, 2018, for the post “The Importance of the Phone Records” (October 25, 2016).  The previous post (April 30, 2018) discussed the issue of fishing poles that the anonymous commenter says were observed in the back seat area of Tarapacki’s truck.  This post takes up a reference by the anonymous commenter to Tarapacki breaking up with an unnamed girlfriend the night before his truck fire.

I again quote the comment verbatim:

“I talked to dale "pharmy" just before he went fishing that morning. Dale and his friend "joe" had returned sun on from a camping trip over the weekend in the Cuba Hinsdale area camping stuff fishing poles and 2 22 rifles were in the rear seat area p.s look into who he broke up with the nite before the "accident" I'm scared 2.”

The police report refers to information solicited from a female involved with Tarapacki around the time of his death, but is unclear about any apparent breakup.  The police report indicates that on the day of the truck fire (4/11/04, a mistake for 4/11/05) Detective Welling interviewed Christy Bowles, mother of Brook [sic] Bowles, who stated that Brook had left by bus at 11 a.m. that day to travel to Cleveland for a job at a magazine company.  The police report goes on as follows: “Mrs. Bowles believes that Brook had broken up with Dale Tarapacki two weeks earlier.”

The next day (4/11/05) Detective Welling reports his phone conversation with Brook Bowles.  Making no reference to any breakup, Miss Bowles informed the detective that “she had been with Dale at his home until 4:00 a.m. on the morning of the 11th.”  The report then summarizes Miss Bowles’ views about Tarapacki’s mental state that night, as follows: “Dale seemed depressed and Brook believed that the depression came from her leaving the area.”

Detective Welling presumably sought Miss Bowles’ opinion on the basis of an immediately prior entry in the police report stating that during the search of Tarapacki’s house the day of the fire, “Sheriff John found a note apparently hand written by Dale Tarapacki which made mention that Tarapacki would be in a mind state of hurting himself.”  According to the report, Miss Bowles added the following: “Although something else seemed to be bother[ing] Dale but Brook did not know what that was.”  The record on Miss Bowles’ final comments indicates a more positive outlook on Tarapacki’s part and an apparent continuation of their relationship: “Brook had no idea that Dale would hurt himself and as she left, Dale told her that he would see her soon.”

The police report thus sheds no light on the anonymous commenter’s statement that Tarapacki had broken up with someone the night before his truck fire.  A troubling issue with this section of the police report, moreover, concerns the very ambiguous statement “Sheriff John found a note apparently hand written by Dale Tarapacki which made mention that Tarapacki would be in a mind state of hurting himself” (emphases mine).

What precisely does that mean?  What was actually written in this note?  Was the handwriting ever tested and demonstrated to be Tarapacki's?  The assumption by the police reportedly was that Tarapacki committed suicide (see posts of October 15, 2016, and October 31, 2017).  But the evidence militates against that view (see esp. posts of March 19 and July 23, 2016), and his death was ruled an “accident.”

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Follow-up on a Comment to the Blog on the Dale Tarapacki Case

This post follows up on some of the information included in an anonymous comment recently sent in to this blog on April 10, 2018, specifically for the post “The Importance of the Phone Records” (October 25, 2016).  I quote that comment verbatim:

“I talked to dale "pharmy" just before he went fishing that morning. Dale and his friend "joe" had returned sun on from a camping trip over the weekend in the Cuba Hinsdale area camping stuff fishing poles and 2 22 rifles were in the rear seat area p.s look into who he broke up with the nite before the "accident" I'm scared 2.”

The author of this comment does not clarify at what specific time he or she spoke with Tarapacki the morning of his truck fire and whether Tarapacki actually mentioned going fishing or if the anonymous commenter drew that inference from the fishing poles observed in the rear seat area.  In addition, since the anonymous commenter refers to “poles,” one can assume that there must have been at least two fishing poles in the truck.

Although my FOIL request for the police report on Dale Tarapacki’s case was denied by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s office (see post of March 19, 2016), an individual who had obtained the police report sent it to me.  In light of this recent anonymous comment, it is strange that there is no reference to any burned remains of these fishing poles in the police report or in the fire investigator’s report (which I did receive after appealing the denial of my FOIL request for all the relevant records on Tarapacki’s death).  One would certainly assume that the metal reels (or metal parts of the reels) would not have totally disintegrated in the truck fire.  In fact, the police report refers to the remains of two 22-caliber rifles in the back seat area of the truck (presumably the same rifles mentioned in the anonymous comment) and a number of 22-caliber shells.  So what happened to the fishing poles?

There is, however, a reference in the police report to one fishing pole.  As recorded in a supplemental report by Deputies Rozler and Dry, dated April 11, 2005 (the day of the truck fire), Tarapacki’s neighbor Steve Kennison told investigators that he saw Tarapacki at about 10 a.m. that day.  The report goes on to state, “Mr. Tarapacki appeared to be going fishing as he left the residence with a fishing pole.”  The report also refers to two other neighbors who were interviewed, Eladina Grey and Sue Grey.  According to the report, these two neighbors saw Tarapacki at about 11:45 a.m. that day and at no time after that.  No mention is made of Tarapacki carrying any fishing poles back into his house.  The fishing poles, then, would still have been in the truck.

Would Tarapacki have left for a fishing trip around 10 a.m. and returned by 11:45?  The police report expresses no concern about that time frame, but it doesn’t seem likely.  It would be useful to know if Tarapacki actually told the anonymous commenter that he was going fishing that morning or if that was speculation on his/her part.

According to a reliable source, although Tarapacki was in no shape to go fishing that morning, police drew attention to a fishing trip in the events leading up to his death.  But it is safe to say that no fishing expedition led Tarapacki to the top of Hardscrabble Road, where, according to the fire investigator’s report, at 2:45 p.m. that day members of the Cattaraugus County fire investigation team were summoned to the scene of his burned-out truck.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Information from Mark’s Attending Physician

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

What Brought the Two Victims to the Place of Their Truck Fires?

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

False or Dubious Claims about a Suicide Letter

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.