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Legendary forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht tackles a suspicious death on a peaceful college campus.

Jack Davis, Jr.

Jack’s body was found in a stairwell

CASE DETAILS

Dr. Cyril Wecht performed the second autopsy

Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht can read a dead body the way most people read a book.  Wecht has performed some 14,000 autopsies and consulted on or reviewed another 30,000—including the autopsies of Elvis Presley and JonBenet Ramsey.  Dr. Wecht was also called as an expert witness by the congressional committee investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Although Dr. Wecht is often involved in the most high-profile and controversial cases, he has also assisted smaller scale investigations.  Among those was the suspicious death of Jack Davis, Jr., a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Authorities found Jack’s body on a Wednesday evening.  He was sprawled at the bottom of a stairwell next to a classroom building.  Jack had last been seen the previous Friday at a party with some of his fraternity brothers.

Jack’s body was autopsied by a local pathologist.  The results were sent to County Coroner Thomas Streams.  This is how Streams described his ruling that Jack’s death was accidental:

“The body was not in disarray from a fight. There was no sign of defensive wounds, as a struggle. There were no drag marks.  There was just nothing remarkable about the body.  The scenario was that Mr. Davis wandered down into the stairwell in an intoxicated state, perhaps to urinate, collapsed in an unconscious state, vomited, inhaled the vomitus into his lungs, which therefore then subsequently caused his death.”

There were questions about the initial findings

The official report concluded that Jack died early Saturday morning, several hours after he was last seen. According to the official account, Jack’s body remained in the stairwell for nearly five days…from his death on Saturday morning until his body was discovered on Wednesday evening.

Jack’s family doubted the official determination.  When a local journalist began publicly questioning the ruling, the family turned to Dr. Wecht for a second opinion.  Even before he began his forensic workup, Dr. Wecht found problems with the official scenario:

“I was puzzled as a matter of common sense.  How could a body have been lying outside on a college campus…for 5 or more days unseen, unnoticed by anybody?  The other thing that puzzled me was I thought, ‘Gee, why would a young man in the early hours of the morning walk 15 steps down a landing and another five steps to urinate?’ I remember when I went to college and I remember what young men will do when they have to urinate, if they are inebriated.  Not too many people have that kind of discretion and personal sensitivity.  So that did not fit either.” 

Jack’s body was later exhumed

Dr. Wecht soon found discrepancies in the toxicology report.  Jack was known to be drinking heavily on the night he supposedly died, yet absolutely no alcohol was found in his blood.  Dr. Wecht knew that was scientifically impossible if he died on Saturday morning:

“Whatever level you have at the time of your death will be the level that will be found later on.  In order for him to have wound up with no alcohol in his blood at the time of death, he would’ve had to have been alive for about 30 hours. The fact then, that there was no alcohol in his blood, indicates to me that he did not die at that time when they theorized he had fallen down the steps.”

That extra 30 hours would put Jack’s death on Sunday afternoon—not Saturday morning. Dr. Wecht found additional evidence that indicted the official story.

Jack had been clean-shaven Friday night when he was last seen, but when his body was found, there was heavy stubble on his face.  He had to have been alive for a significant time—perhaps days—beyond Saturday morning in order for his beard to grow.

And, Dr. Wecht described one final discrepancy — the autopsy slides of Jack’s lungs proved that the young man could not possibly have choked to death on regurgitated food:

“If you’re going to list that as a cause of death, you’ve got to find food particles deep down inside the small terminal air passageways, and that wasn’t present.  The other thing about the autopsy that really stood out for me was the fact that the head had not been examined. The pathologist who did the autopsy had not opened up the cranial vault.”

Dr. Wecht reviewed the autopsy slides

After hearing Dr. Wecht’s initial findings, Jack’s family considered bolder action.  Jack’s mother their thinking:

“We all agreed—as a family and with Dr. Wecht—that the body needed to be exhumed.  It was the only way we would find out the true cause of death.

After performing the autopsy, Dr. Wecht proposed an entirely different cause for Jack’s death:

“When I opened up the skull, I found 3 fractures, 3 areas of skull fracture with significant bleeding overlying the brain. It’s a blood clot.  It’s a pooling of blood.  And that was the cause of death, which had never been appreciated because the head had never been examined in the first autopsy.”

Dr. Wecht also investigated the alleged site of Jack’s death, the stairwell where his body was found.  Wecht wanted to see if the location could somehow validate the official finding that Jack had died from a fall in the stairwell.  Wecht’s personal observations confirmed his doubts about the “stairwell” scenario:

“I realized that that body could not have accidentally fallen or been thrown from high up, because he would have had eggshell, depressed-type fractures. Similarly, it did not appear that he had stumbled down the steps, because there was no pattern of abrasions and bruises, and so that did not fit.”

Dr. Wecht then visited a classroom located directly above the stairwell where Jack’s body was found and looked out the window.  Some 200 students had passed through the rooms during that time.  The view of the stairwell was unobstructed.  Yet not a single student had reported seeing a body.

There was one final problem with the official finding of accidental death.  During the two days before Jack’s body was found, heavy rain fell on the campus.  Yet, Jack’s clothing was bone dry.  To Dr. Wecht, that was another glaring inconsistency in the official finding:

“Jack’s clothes were not wet.  I would say it is more likely that Jack Davis died elsewhere or was injured elsewhere and then was placed at the bottom of those steps.  I base this upon the known facts.”

Others have come to the same conclusion as Dr. Wecht. Local journalists Marlene Brennan and Sharon Santus investigated the death. Brennan theorizes that Jack may have been caught up in a feud between two rival fraternities:

“Some students report that there were up to 5 fights that night.  And it could be possible that he was involved in one of them and he was injured and someone didn’t know what to do with him.  So they kept him somewhere thinking he might get better…and he didn’t, and then they moved him to the stairwell.”

Local authorities have not changed their findings in the case.  But based on the forensic evidence amassed by Dr. Cyril Wecht, Jack’s family remains convinced he died in an entirely different manner.  They remain equally convinced that someone who attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania knows what happened.  They are hoping that someone will come forward.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season seven with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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9 Comments

  1. Jack

    I guess hes PERFECT at іt!? Laugheԁ Larry.

    Reply

  2. Next Door Neighbor

    I lived next door to this man’s fraternity house the year of his passing. Ran into a man in about 2015 while attending a church function, and this subject matter came up among about 4 attendees who all attended IUP, and another man who claimed to know personally, one of the men who were present when the pact was made place Jack in that stairwell, and for the group (being the only men who knew what happened, since they all kept their mouths shut while waiting and hoping that Jack would get better, or come out of the unconscious state he was in for a few days) to essentially swear an oath to never speak of these events ever again for the rest of their lives. The man who attended the church function who claimed to be personal friends with one of the brothers of Jack’s fraternity, stated that this man who was present when the accident happened, witnessed first hand Jack sustaining head injuries from a game known to be played at that particular fraternity house, which was a real life game of Donkey Kong, in which they would role 1/2 keg beer barrels down the steps form the top, and the pledges or whoever would elect to take part, would have to attempt to ascend the staircase [A staircase then made of concrete and very well anchored steel hand rails. NOTE: This house no longer exists, as IUP bought the properties and knocked down the three houses used by Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Tau Gamma and Alpha Chi Rho, and that AXR house at the end of Maple Street, was formerly the Lambda Chi Alpha house when Jack was on campus] as they dodged, ducked or fended off the kegs while they would come rolling down the steps. The man spoke of a small group of Jack’s brothers, who had taken him away from the frat house to an off campus apartment after Jack had sustained head injuries from catching one of the kegs in the head, and falling down the concrete stairwell. He further stated that the man whom he knows personally, was there for the next few days, while the few brothers who knew what happened, waited and hoped that he would come out of it, from the state of unconsciousness Jack remained in, when suddenly he died. And finally the man described how they choked, didn’t know what to do, and that they decided that he would be placed where he was found, and that once they walked away from the Oak Grove, and Weyandt Hall where Jack was found at the bottom of the staircase there, THAT THEY WOULD NEVER EVER SPEAK OF THE ENTIRE INCIDENT FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. After hearing this story told to me, and combining that with my first hand knowledge of the houses, knowing that stairwell in Sig Tau’s house from partying their regularly, and hearing tales of the Donkey Kong game actually having been played within their house, and realizing that the story told would fit perfectly with every fact of the case, and those mentioned within this report here on Unsolved Mysteries, I personally came be believe that what I had heard, was actually the truth, and that it is in fact how the scenario played out resulting in the passing of Jack Davis. I even went as far as to contact a private investigator who was involved in the Jack Davis case, and while remaining anonymous, I informed the man of what I stated here today, and asked that he inform Jack’s parents, that this was in all likelihood, the accurate story of what had actually happened, and resulted in his demise. The man I spoke to on the phone, assured me that he would tell the Davis family about the information I had come into, and he tried to get me to identify myself, but I informed him that so many years had passed, that no District Attorney in the world would ever take on this case with no evidence, and no ability to prove his/her case, and that I would therefore not be willing to step forward and go any further than I already had, by providing him the info I had just told him…………

    Reply

  3. TaTwii

    This is so tragic, I just watched it on unsolved mysteries and looked it up on my phone hoping there was an update 🙁 Based on everything I’ve read about this I feel like he was definitely killed by the fraternity, mayb not intentionally, and I really think that there are at least a couple people, maybe more, that know about it and panicked and swore to take this secret to their Graves. That being said, these people would now be in their what, 50s, have families possibly, and have been living with this dark secret for the past 30 some years, I’m sure it has affected them with horrible reoccurring nightmares, paranoia, etc. at least and possibly affected their lives even more than guilt and bad dreams and will continue to affect them until the day they die . When it seems to me it wasn’t intentional and just an accident and I’m sure it’s happened before and colleges with fraternity rivals accidentally going bad and if these young ADULTS, would have just came clean from the beginning or even the next day when they were sober or if even just one of them had enough empathy or morals or balls to come forward sooner they could’ve already been taking the steps to put this horrible tragedy behind them in attempt to live a normal life and most importantly give this poor family some closure. I hope whoever knows about what happened to this young man is suffering every day every second of their life. I feel like this went from an honest intoxicated accident, that would obviously devastate this young man’s family of course, had all the facts been presented at the time of his death, and his family could have already started the healing process and excepted his death and went on with their lives so to speak but now 30 years later it’s a full blown murder investigation and because of that this family is still living this still looking for answers still suffering. I’ve never commented on things like this I hardly comment on my friends post on Facebook this is the first time I’ve ever took time to do anything like this obviously because I am horrible at writing in general, I was terrified of unsolved mysteries as a kid just the theme song alone I had to cover my ears when my mom was watching , this is the first time I’ve watched unsolved mysteries since I was a kid and now I remember why, so sad so tragic.

    Reply

  4. LUIS FREEH

    WELL! WHY DONlT “U” TELL ME DR. WECHT WHAT “U” DID TO HIM THAT NIGHT’ EGGSHELL? WHITE OR POUROUS MATERIAL” POOLING OF BLOOD! OR IMPACT CAUSEING BURST BLOOD VESSEL’S IN THE BRAIN? NO PENETRATION TO THE SKULL? IF HE “FELL A GOOSEBUMP” FROM LIQUID CAUSING SWELLING WOULD BE PRESENT! NO “BRAIN TRAUMA” FROM IT SMASHING AGAINST THE SKULL?

    Reply

  5. Reenie

    There’s no doubt about this. He was murdered I mean seriously if your a well trained coroner how could you miss three fractures to the skull and no alcohol in the system? This bothers me most because so many things are unanswered and this poor young mans life ended so abruptly. What makes it so much worse is that his parents still don’t know what happened to their son it makes me extremely sad and angry that no one has bothered to look into this since the case was closed.

    Reply

  6. Sky

    Murdered. Prob by the fraternity.

    Reply