Sunday, December 28, 2014

Footprints of Evil


My favorite movie line of all time is delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. “If it bleeds we can kill it.” But you cannot kill what you cannot find. Every predator, no matter how stealthy, can be tracked when you know what to look for. Then, sometimes, just like in the movie the hunter becomes the prey.
Cullen Finnerty
Hundreds of people had been looking for him — friends, family and emergency service personnel. Helicopters had braved the driving rain, which seemingly came from nowhere, almost thwarting the rescue attempt. The rural community of Baldwin, Michigan, worked side by side with people bused in from all over the state to participate in the search.
All of them groped for answers as to how something like this could happen.
A call to the sheriff’s department by one local had even asserted that the man was being chased through the forest by Bigfoot. He was finally found by his friends face down and dead in a thickly-wooded area less than forty-eight hours after and not far from where he seemingly disappeared into thin air. His waders were askew and a trickle of blood ran down his nose.
An autopsy done the next day determined that he had a “slightly enlarged heart and slightly cloudy lungs”, but “no trauma to the body at all”. Months later, the initial autopsy, which found no reason for the man to be dead, would be redacted to speculate that he had died of pneumonia caused by inhaling his own vomit, in combination with a half dozen other absurdities(1). The case was closed, just like a thousand other cases like it have been closed before.
Cullen Finnerty was the type of big robust Irishman that the Midwest seems to grow like corn. He was a man who lived for physical confrontation, and he was so good at it that, after a sterling college career he ended up for a while, as a backup quarterback in the National Football League. The New York Times would eulogize that he was “perhaps the most successful quarterback in college football history”.(2)
At six foot two and two hundred and forty pounds of solid muscle, by all accounts, the staunchly Catholic Finnerty ran over defensive lineman and to fights — not away from them. By all accounts, Finnerty had taken one too many shots to the head. He was suffering from a mild case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease prevalent in ex-football players.
Back in December of 2011, he had been in Detroit with some coworkers, when he had phoned his brother Tim claiming he was being followed. In that paranoid episode, the only time Tim had ever seen Cullen afraid of anything, Cullen drove 150 miles to Tim’s house in Grand Rapids in an effort to evade the FBI, whom he imagined to be following him.(3)
By the time he went fishing on the evening of May 26, 2013, in the Baldwin River beneath the green canopy of Manistee National Forest Park, Cullen’s football career was behind him. He was thirty years old, married with two small children, and had a good job in medical sales. His carefully-concealed oxycodone habit was a memento from his playing days. His paranoid episode over a year ago had been an isolated incident, perhaps more likely attributed to overindulgence in Detroit’s thriving cocaine industry, than his imperceptible brain damage and medically-managed addiction to pain medication.
Cullen’s wife and friends had agreed to pick him up from the boat launching area at about 9.30 PM and bring him back to their rented cabin. At 9.27 she received a phone call from him in which he frantically described being followed by two men — one of which was twenty feet behind him, and neither of whom responded when he tried to talk to them. He then inexplicably stated that he was getting out of the river and taking off his clothes. He then hung up.(4 – 21:07)
His wife described him as sounding scared. Two more calls were made at 9.34 and 9.36 with Cullen again saying that he was being followed and he was nervous then hanging up. At 9.36 his friend, who was on the camping trip, asked where he was. Cullen replied that he’s not sure, but it’s getting a little rough. I think a couple of guys are following me. He then hung up again. During the last call, his wife was able to have him give her the coordinates from his iPhone. But when they went to the location, Cullen was not there.
At 10:37, a deputy responded, and it is at this point that the five-page long exercise in sentimental propaganda appearing in the June 8, 2013 edition of the New York Times makes a mockery of both journalism and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Cullen Finnerty’s death. The Times glibly states that the deputy “had a phone company ping his cellphone, and the results came back as far as three miles south and five miles north. Still no answers. Only questions.”(5)
Without missing a beat to even consider the cell phone evidence, the whitewash goes on to insinuate that Cullen died of a heart attack, mentioning pain in the left arm that a professional football player with too many miles on the odometer had been experiencing the week prior. The autopsy never even mentions a heart attack, not even the redacted autopsy.

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