Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More on the Alleged Suicide Letter in the Deaths of Mark and Dale Tarapacki

Previous posts have brought up the issue of a suicide letter allegedly left by my brother Mark (see September 22, 2010; November 23, 2013; January 31, 2018; and March 31, 2019).  In addition, the post of January 31, 2018, refers to a report by two individuals that the young pharmacist Dale Tarapacki, who like my brother was burned to death in a suspicious truck fire in Great Valley, N.Y., also allegedly left a suicide letter.  This post adds further information about these two alleged suicide letters.

In a telephone conversation with N.Y.S.P. Captain Steven Nigrelli in 2014, I raised the problem of inconsistencies about an alleged suicide letter left by my brother (see post of March 31, 2019). Specifically, I brought up the following: the claim made to me by my brother’s daughter Christie the night of Mark’s death that he had left her a suicide letter, which she subsequently denied to the State Police investigator; the denial of a suicide letter by my brother’s wife Susan to the State Police investigator; and the report of a much later claim by Susan that Mark had in fact left a suicide letter.  Capt. Nigrelli responded by insisting that family members often deny the existence of a suicide letter in order to protect the insurance money but later admit it.  His explanation, however, did not take into account why Christie would have made the claim of a suicide letter to me at all.

Moreover, in his effort to justify the inconsistencies of those claims about a suicide letter, Capt. Nigrelli referred to Mark’s death as “autoerotic.”  In the circumstances of my brother’s death such a claim, implying an effort by the victim to achieve sexual gratification, makes no sense.  Autoerotic deaths are not very common in the U.S., and the majority of cases involve asphyxiation by hanging or ligature (see A. Sauvageau and S. Racette, “Autoerotic Deaths in the Literature from 1954 to 2004: A Review,” Journal of Forensic Sciences 51, 2006, 140-46).  Furthermore, autoerotic deaths are by nature unintentional; they are accidents, not the result of suicide.

That bizarre explanation by a New York State Police official also failed to account for the wounds on my brother’s head.  Two emergency workers on the scene of Mark’s truck fire and his attending physician at the burn unit observed a wound to his forehead, and a CT scan, according to Mark’s attending physician, revealed further soft-tissue damage to the left side of his face (see esp. post of January 29, 2019).  Capt. Nigrelli’s attempt to justify the failure of the State Police investigation to pursue the problematic claim of a suicide letter is simply ludicrous.

In Dale Tarapacki’s case, in addition to the reference to a suicide letter by two individuals, an entry in the police report by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department dated 4/11/05 (the day of Tarapacki's truck fire) summarizes the results of a search of Tarapacki’s house.  The relevant section concerning an apparent suicide letter reads as follows: “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.”

The language referring to this note is imprecise and unclear (see post of May 31, 2018).  Did officials check to determine if this note was actually rather than merely “apparently” written by Tarapacki?  What does the vague phrase “would be in a mind state of hurting himself” mean?  Why doesn’t the police report actually cite the specific language in that note found by Sheriff John?  An individual who knew Tarapacki well reported that far from intending to take his own life, shortly before his death Tarapacki feared for his safety.

Tarapacki as a pharmacist knew—and actually told an acquaintance—that there were peaceful ways of ending one’s life.  His actual death in the truck fire that burned his body beyond recognition hardly represents a “peaceful” way out.  Finally, the bullet wound to the rear side of his right thigh clearly wasn’t inflicted by Tarapacki himself and couldn’t have hit him accidentally as he sat in the driver’s seat of his truck.  How is it that the Sheriff’s investigators apparently never considered foul play in Tarapacki’s death?