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'Someone Knows Something'

Read an excerpt of "Footprints of Courage."

Chapter 9

March 5–April 30, 2003

I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.
Maya Angelou

The morning after the memorial service we met with the chief medical examiner, Dr. Garry Peterson, assistant chief medical examiners Dr. Baker and Dr. Berg, and the deputy medical examiner, Dr. Rivera. To our surprise, two Hennepin County attorneys, Peter Cahill and Michael Miller, also came to the meeting. MPD Sergeant Jackson, lead investigator on Chris’s case, attended this meeting, but he did not go to the recovery scene, nor did he participate in the autopsy. Chuck Loesch, Sara, Steve, and I listened carefully, while observing very unusual behavior that concerns us to this day. For the first twenty minutes of the meeting, Dr. Peterson stared at the table with both of his hands shaking so hard he couldn’t hold a pen. During that time he did not make eye contact with anyone. Scowling, Sergeant Jackson sat at one end of the table, with crossed arms and his back partially turned toward the group. The presence of two attorneys, Peterson’s anxiety, and Jackson’s attitude as evidenced in their nonverbal behavior made us wonder what the heck was going on.

We asked about Chris’s body position and Peterson did say Chris was found on his back, with arms and hands crossed in front. His slip-on shoes were on his feet. There was no bruising, yet Chris played two full days of lacrosse in the position of goalie with only a chest protector five days before he disappeared. Frustrated with receiving no answers, I asked how Chris could have ended up like that if he had jumped or fallen off a bridge. We’ll never forget the response as long as we live: “Maybe he jumped in the river to save a duck.” Raised eyebrows from Sara, Steve, and me may have prompted the next statement: “The river does strange things.” We felt that something much stranger than the river was occurring right in front of our eyes.

Dr. Peterson stated that Chris’s death resulted from one of three things: accident, suicide, or homicide. After we left the meeting, Sergeant Jackson showed us where a biker allegedly had seen Chris walking on the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. The biker had to approach the MPD three times before someone thought he was credible. In an angry voice, Sergeant Jackson stated, “By the way, it’s one of two things: suicide or accident.” He told us to get rid of the notion of someone kidnapping Chris and driving him down to the river, and to forget the I-94 connection among the missing men. Four agencies had met (Sheboygan and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and St. Cloud and Minneapolis, Minnesota) and found no commonalities. I responded, “Well, that may be, but there are at least twenty-two young men missing in less than five years in a relatively small geographical area. The similarities in the profiles of these young men and the fact that their bodies show up in water with no explanation, surely demands considera­tion from someone in law enforcement.”

With heavy hearts and broken spirits, Sara, Steve, and I drove a few blocks to the Third Avenue Bridge. After parking the car, we walked over the bridge until we stood directly above the location where Chris’s body was spotted. Holding four roses—three red ones representing each of us, and one white one representing Chris—we prayed and told him how helpless and sorry we felt about his tragic death. Promising him we would seek justice for this heinous crime, we kissed the white rose and tossed it, then watched as it drifted down to the water. After tossing the three red roses, one at a time, we put our arms around each other’s shoulders, watching the roses floating in the frigid water. The harsh realization of the finality of our life as a family of four felt unbearable. Huddled together on the bridge with an icy wind whipping around us, we saw all four roses eventually join together, right by the log jam where Chris’s body was found. We’ll be together again, someday.