Dateline   |  September 27, 2013

Toxic, Part 3

The Podolak family discover that Matthew’s death was caused by antifreeze poisoning.  But they soon grow frustrated by the lack of answers they’re getting from the police.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there were just the two of them. big brother mark and the kid he looked out for, his little brother , matt. and now matt was dead. and nothing made sense. to mark podalak.

>> there's no way that a guy's going to go into the hospital with kidney stones and you're going to die because of kidney stones .

>> narrator: three months after his death, matt podalak's family gathered for a meeting. matt's mother arranged it. before that, they were discussing a possible wrongful death suit against the hospital where matt died.

>> my mom called me over and said we're going to talk to a lawyer tonight, we're going to find out what's going to happen.

>> narrator: but mark's mother wasn't exactly straight with her son, that was not what was going to happen.

>> so when i got to her house, the whole family was there, and i was like, where's the lawyer? and she said, he's not here.

>> narrator: no lawyer, something far more disturbing. the autopsy report. matt's mother did not want her surviving song hearing about this over the phone. afraid of how he'd react.

>> the whole family was there, and they said we got the coroner's report back and it was anti-freeze poisoning.

>> anti-freeze poisoning?

>> yes.

>> narrator: the correct phrase was chronic intoxication by ethyle ethylene glycol. that being the toxic ingredient in anti-freeze.

>> chronic? it happened over a period of time, so once that kind of set in, i was shocked, i was speechless.

>> narrator: that's when something profound happened to mark podalak. a decision snapped into place.

>> from that moment on when we found out, it was my mission to find an answer for this.

>> narrator: a mission complicated by the fact that there was one very big question the coroner couldn't answer. was matt's death the result of some terrible mistake or suicide? or was it murder? nobody knew. so the coroner labeled the manner of death undetermined. across town, matt's fiance holly was getting the news too. holly's sister, krissy.

>> what did she say?

>> what can you say? there's anti-freeze in his system. we were all thinking it was kidney failure . we were not expecting thac ining that.

>> narrator: was it really possible that matt ingested small amounts of anti-freeze for weeks, is that possible? mark had already made up his mind that mark did not commit suicide a and certainly not gradual suicide. but what did he have to go on? so far, only a growing suspicion and rage, which he made perfectly clear to the police.

>> i finally got ahoed of the detective on the case and he did some initial stuff but it wasn't the followthrough that i had hoped, maybe that was just because i was just grieving and i was so upset.

>> but when something like that happens, you want the whole world to stand up and pay attention and do something?

>> when that happens, i want every member of the police department to be on it.

>> and it seemed like nobody was on it?

>> it didn't seem that way, no. just time started to go on. i became extremely frustrated.

>> narrator: matt's father, a former cop himself saw the problem. the case was stuck. the coroner said he couldn't label it a homicide without more evidence from the police. well, at the very same time --

>> cleveland homicide was saying they can't investigate it a homicide until the coroner rules it a homicide.

>> narrator: so it remained, month after month, year into year. still the manner of death was listed as undetermined. just like mark, matt's father len made something of a pest of himself.

>> i would call the detective that was assigned to the case and say what have you got? and his standard answer to me was, i don't have anything, what have you got? i said, well this is your job, not my job. you know.

>> not unlike what matt's fiance holly was thinking.

>> she was upset that there was nothing.

>> but holly had three children to raise, alone. police versus coroner politics was not exactly upper most in her mind. to make ends meet, she sometimes took on two, maybe three jobs at the same time. and threw herself into coaching her children's little league baseball teams. meanwhile, mark kept hounding investigators, but getting nowhere.

>> it made me feel like my brother's case was on a desk of somebody who could care less and was counting down the days to his retirement.

>> narrator: but though mark was getting nowhere, holly was hearing things, not from the police. remember the plant where matt supervised other workers? what was really going on around the powder coding machine? coming up, holly