Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Failure by the New York State Police to Pursue the Claim of a Suicide Letter

This post revisits an important issue that the New York State Police failed to pursue to any degree in their investigation into my brother’s death: the allegation by Mark’s then twenty-three year old daughter Christie that he had left her a suicide letter.  Three previous posts have discussed this problem (see September 22, 2010; November 23, 2013; and January 31, 2018).  This post reveals that further efforts on my part to discuss the matter with a senior official of the N.Y.S. Police met with an entirely unsatisfactory explanation.

As previously mentioned, the night of Mark’s death, Christie informed me her father had left her a suicide letter but that she was not telling anyone else about this letter, except for her mother and brother, because she wanted to protect the insurance money.  After I reported the allegation, which for various reasons seemed incredible (see November 23, 2013), Inv. Edward Kalfas brought the issue up with Christie in October 2003.  As his narrative in the police report states, Christie denied knowing anything about a suicide letter.  He then raised the issue with Mark's wife in December 2003. Susan replied that Mark had left “no notes or letters.”  The issue was pursued no further in the investigation.  When Atty. Michael Kelly asked State Police officials in September 2005 why nothing had been done about this claim of a suicide letter, Kalfas simply said that when Christie denied any knowledge of a suicide letter, he did not know what to do about it.

Then District Attorney Edward Sharkey knew that the investigation had discovered no basis for a suicide in Mark’s death and makes that clear in a statement in the police report dated December 30, 2003.  Yet while they officially rejected the possibility of a murder (in spite of the pool of Mark’s blood found in his driveway and, as made known in 2005, the head wounds my brother had suffered), both Sharkey and the State Police publicly classified Mark’s death as an accident.

Privately, however, the authorities continued to consider his death a suicide.  In May 2004, just after the investigation ended, Sharkey told Atty. Tony Tanke in a telephone conversation that Mark's death was either an accident or a suicide but he thought it most likely a suicide.  Sen. Inv. John Wolfe told Michael Kelly in 2005 that he thought Mark’s death was more likely a suicide than an accident.  When I brought up the alleged suicide letter in 2008 with D.A. Sharkey's investigator at the time of my brother’s death, Michael Malak replied that such a thing seemed unlikely to have been made up.

More recently, in August 2014, I again raised the problem of the alleged suicide letter in a telephone conversation with N.Y.S. P. Capt. Steven Nigrelli.  I not only referred to the dubious nature of Christie’s claim but also mentioned information reported by my nephew Tom McKenna.  According to Tom, Mark’s wife Susan had recently told his mother that he had in fact left a suicide letter (on the latter see November 23, 2013).  I asked Nigrelli how one could justify this change of story ten years or so later.  He then defended it by stating that relatives often do not want a suicide letter to affect the insurance and therefore initially deny it but later admit it.

If Nigrelli’s statement is true, it might well explain the contradiction between Susan’s denial of a suicide letter to Inv. Kalfas and her reported acknowledgement of it to Carol McKenna.  However, again, if Nigrelli’s statement is true, it still does not explain Christie’s claim to me the night of Mark’s death that he had left her a suicide letter and her subsequent denial of it to Kalfas.  If family members deny an actual suicide letter for insurance purposes, why, then, did Christie tell me about a suicide letter left to her by Mark?  I have never been one of Christie’s confidantes.  By the logic of Nigrelli’s assertion, Christie should have said nothing at all to me about any suicide letter.

Other information also makes Christie’s claim of a suicide letter dubious.  In the period prior to Mark’s death, how close was Christie with my brother?  A few years ago, I happened to have a conversation with an acquaintance of Mark’s daughter who knew her well.  That individual mentioned being shocked at a comment Christie had made, specifically that she was ashamed of Mark and did not even think of him as her father.  Not long after my brother’s death, his friend Todd Lindell mentioned that Mark had not been happy about the way his children treated him.  With this information in mind, does it really seem plausible that Mark would have left a suicide letter to his daughter Christie?