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Monday, April 25, 2016

Chapter Five - In Other Words

***

Most of the letters begin with, "To Whom it May Concern", meaning, at the Kalamazoo County Coroner's Office (aka WMed, aka Homer H. Stryker School of Medicine). They say so many things between them all, like fragments of glass or tile that come together in a mosaic that eloquently portrays the happy life of a normal kid. I've written plenty thus far and have a lot more to say. 

The following words are nothing but the truth, told by people who knew and loved Charlie and our family, who took up the pen of their own volition to advocate for one who cannot advocate for himself. These were hand-delivered to WMed Investigator JoAnne Catania. Whether she passed them along to her superiors, I do not know. Whether she did or she didn't, they went completely ignored.

Read 'em and weep.

***

"When Charlie was first discovered hanging from an inherently dangerous rope ladder and swing, the table upon which one would stand to grasp the rope was toppled to the side. He was hanging in one of the several long existing loops in the old climbing rope. The nurse staying with Theresa Heller and Charlie at the time began and, along with Theresa, continued CPR until help arrived.

All of the physical evidence and virtually all of the investigatory work conducted by the police leads one to conclude that the death was nothing more than a tragic accident." - (Our Attorney)

***

"Having thought about this for the past several weeks, I do not believe that a twelve year old is capable of making a voluntary decision to end their life. While kids today are exposed to more toxic sights and sounds than other generations, there is still a matter of cognitive development. Parts of the brain continue to develop well into a person's twenties. Charlie could not have fully understood the consequences of his acts and I am certain that he had no intent to end his life." - Dr. Dan Farrell, Professor, WMU

***

"First, the Medical Examiner states in the subsection 'Suicide Circumstances' that there was a 'recent suicide of friend/family'. To my knowledge, this statement is completely false. The Medical Examiner also states there was a 'crisis in past 1 week', and again to my knowledge, nothing radically out of the ordinary in Charlie's life happened during the week prior to his death. The Medical Examiner then states that there were 'other relationship problem (sic)'. What is such a vague statement doing in a report about a person's death? It is meaningless." - Dr. Charles F. Heller, Jr., Professor Emeritus, WMU

***

"While making plans for his funeral, I was shocked to find that the Death Certificates I was given listed his death as a suicide. Along with many others I was at his home while emergency personnel were trying to revive him and remained there until after midnight. At no time was there any suggestion that Charlie had intentionally been hung by himself or anyone else; everyone there knew it was the result of a terrible accident, a young boy acting out his fantasy - of who knows what - who had slipped and fallen." - Rita V. Heller

***

"In April of 2015 I saw him for a rash. I also saw him in May of 2015 on two occasions for an injury, a puncture wound to the heel of his foot. I should also note that he was seen in April of 2015 by Ann Sheehan, our pediatric nurse practitioner, for a routine physical examination. Other than eczema and allergic rhinitis, no other concerns were noted." - Mark A. Blazek, MD

***

"Charlie was FULL of life - every single day." - Irene Milbrandt (Charlie's Aunt)

***

"Upon hearing of Charlie's death, and the manner in which he died, we were absolutely shocked. We think the natural tendency upon hearing how he died is to assume it was intentional, but when you think about who Charlie was, you know that is absolutely not the case, that it was a tragic accident that occurred while he was playing in his tree fort. We do not for one second believe that Charlie committed suicide, and are appalled that is how his death was ruled." - Richard and Katrine Nichols (Uncle Rick and Aunt Trini)

***

"Charlie and I began fishing together a few years ago, and I became his  outdoor mentor, teaching him and planning future excursions. We looked forward to an Autumn full of adventures, and many seasons to come, and made many plans." - Larry Haffner

***

"I am a family friend of the Hellers and have been closely associated with Theresa Heller, her son Charlie, his father Dennis Wolf and most of Theresa's nuclear family. Before retiring from a 31 year career with the Kalamazoo County Probate Court in 2012, I worked in the area of adoption search and reunion with Theresa, while her parents Charles and Rita Heller volunteered to visit many of the approximately 1,200 persons under legal guardianships or conservatorships." - Patrick Neal

***

"There is no way that Charlie committed suicide in my opinion. He had an awesome relationship with his Mother, Father, Grandparents, step-brother and -sister, his uncles, godparents and friends. He was not alone or isolated, he was not depressed in any way; he had so much happiness in his life. He had plans, dreams and goals outlined for his life. Those are not signs of someone with intention to commit suicide, or emotional problems." - Denise Booms-Pepin, Godmother

***

"When Charlie was 11, just a few months before his tragic accident, I stopped by his house to say goodbye because I was moving to Florida. During my visit I was talking to Charlie, both of us sitting at the table where his mother and I both helped him with homework assignments, served him meals and had many conversations. Charlie said to me, 'I have the coolest life.'"  - Tina Swanson

***

"In the rush to bring closure to the circumstances surrounding Charlie's death, I feel that the conclusion that Charlie died willingly by his own hand as a suicide to have been premature and misguided. Like many young boys, Charlie was a wholehearted, even reckless, adventurer. He was also very imaginative and played out elaborate scenarios and schemes given time and opportunity. It has seemed to me that the classification of his strangulation death as a suicide, in the same terms in which we hold adult suicide, is inaccurate and premature." - Kathryn White

***

"In the case of Charlie, he was a remarkable 12 year old who always possessed a zest for life and the next adventure. As a young boy he was always a bit behind in maturing, however this was not of concern because he was innocent, imaginative and full of life. We all grow up at our own pace and become wise to the ways of the world. I am 100 percent sure Charlie was not able to commit suicide in any way, for Charlie was blessed with a positive world with roles of fantasy and not the roles of today's reality." - Kevin Fallon

***

"I would request that his cause of death be changed, as we all know it was NOT suicide. I truly hope that the decision to change this will happen sooner than later, so that we may all complete the grieving process, without something that we know not to be the truth hanging over our heads." - Irene Milbrandt

***

"In the autopsy report, it is stated that Charlie had a close friend commit suicide by hanging only days before. I find this the most disturbing bit of misinformation." - Vincent J. Heller

***

"Ruling his death a suicide is a serious mistake. I am left feeling that his tragic accidental passing is being mislabeled to distract attention from the fact that the investigating detectives were over two hours late arriving at the accident scene. From that dismal beginning, the focus has been misplaced." - Patrick Neal

***

"Of all the reasons people commit suicide, because they are depressed, psychotic, impulsive, crying out for help or trying to achieve some kind of high, none of these are remotely descriptive of Charlie. Based on logic, suicide does not add up." - Denise Booms-Pepin

***

"In summary, there is nothing in any of the contacts that we have had with Dennis in the year prior to his death that would have caused concern on our part for his death to have been self-inflicted." - Mark A. Blazek, MD

***

"I think Charlie's is an accidental death, and I see no clear evidence to the contrary." - Dr. Charles F. Heller, Jr.

***

"I would like to know why this report was sent out with so many untruths and why the ME wrote/authorized this report. I want to know why the Suicide Circumstances are made up. I want to know why 'unknown persons' are quoted on page 3 under Ante-mortem Events - seriously, a ME is going to quote unknown people in such a serious case in the death of a child?" - Rita V. Heller

***

"For everything my son Charlie did and was... to be blackened this way breaks our hearts." - Theresa Heller

***

"Charlie lost no close friend or anyone for that matter in the prior days/weeks. This is horrifyingly irresponsible and absolutely must be stricken." - Vincent J. Heller

***

"I carry Charlie with me, so he'll still go to the woods and the river." - Larry Haffner

***

"This is a request to correct the erroneous conclusion of 'suicide'. 'Suicide' is not supported by a fair reading of reports and listening to the tapes. It is not only factually incorrect, but it brands the life and memory of a remarkable and happy young boy with failure and waste. It results in an unfair social pronouncement of failure by the immediate and extended family's supportive involvement in Charlie's life. It is a painful scar that is neither accurate nor justified by the evidence." - (Our Attorney)

***

"In closing, the people close to him know it was an accident. My only wish would be for you to spend one day with Charlie and you would understand." - Kevin Fallon

***

All right, that's enough. Those are just a few shreds of the testimonials that WMed didn't care about. They say everyone who knew Charlie all of his life is wrong. We don't know shit, and they, who knew him not at all, are the only ones who figured it out.

The case is closed, and if we don't like it, we can call the cops. That's what some clown named Tom Zavitz at WMed sent in a room-temperature email to my sister. Before we're done, you'll have his email address so you can respond to him with your own thoughts. Be sure to add lots of grunting and squealing, though, as he may feel more comfortable conversing in his native accent.

(By the way Tommy Z, we did call the cops. And guess what? They're investigating. But they won't have to do much, because we already did it for them. If you had paid any amount of attention at all to what we've been saying, you'd already know that.)

However, this stack of missives doesn't at all quote the letter that Renee sent. As the first responder at the scene, and as the most qualified medical professional here that night, she told the police that Charlie's death was an obvious accident (I have the audio). She reasserts such in her letter, and demands to know who overruled what she considers to be her authority on the matter. She vows to testify against whoever did so once this thing gets to court, which is where it looks like it's headed, given WMed's cruel, senseless and pig-headed stance.

They failed the citizens of Kalamazoo County, big-time, in almost every aspect of this case. And I am here to prove it. The story isn't just heartbreaking. It's also disgusting, seamy, a story that will expose you to the worst elements of society.

You can't make this stuff up. What has been done wrong must be put right. What was done in the dark will be dragged to the light.

Here it comes.

pH 4.25.16

***

NEXT WEEK: CHAPTER SIX - "Do the Math"

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