If I can be so sure, as some news sources are still hedging as to what the cause of death is. But for those who are leaning toward the obvious, people have been asking me how I figured it out so quickly. So, I’m putting it down for the record.
Back in 2006, I read an enormous book called The Homicide Investigation Manual by Vernon Geberth. It’s considered the bible of homicide investigation techniques. There’s a section devoted entirely to distinguishing death by auto-erotic asphyxiation from suicide and even homicide, as some apparatus can appear to be fairly aggressive, such as plastic bags fastened over the head.
The key points that tipped me off in the first article I read were:
1. Curtain cord. This struck me as a bit thin to be used as a means of violent death by asphyxiation. Certainly, however, it could be used to apply the right amount of pressure to temporarily cut off airways.
2. Body found in closet. The closet isn’t an uncommon place to find people who are practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation, oddly enough.
3. The cord was tied around his neck and “another body part.” I assumed this either meant his genitals or his wrist. If the former, it’s for arousal. If the latter, it would be part of his “escape” mechanism. Either way, “another body part” was a big clue.
Geberth even discusses how to deal with families when the investigation reveals auto-erotic asphyxiation as the cause of death, pointing out that families will be far more open to a conclusion of suicide than they are of death by dangerous sexual practice. I’d think the loss of a loved one would be hard to accept regardless of determination, but apparently it’s enough of an issue that Geberth felt it was worth discussing.
So there you have it. It’s a terrible tragedy nonetheless. My heart goes out to his family and friends.