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Minn. Man Who Faked Death Is Jailed

August 29, 2003

STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) _ A man whose obituary said he died last month has been arrested.

Robert Michael Mathison was due in Washington County District Court to face charges including assault stemming from a June case in which he faked a heart attack upon arrest, police said.

Mathison was being held Friday in the Washington County Jail with bail set at $10,000. Authorities said they were continuing their investigation, but County Attorney Doug Johnson said Friday he did not expect to file additional charges.

The death notice ran in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press on July 15: ``Mathison, Robert M. Age 50 of St. Paul Died on July 12, 2003. Loved by everyone; loved everyone. Survived by 3 sons, Shawn, Jeremiah, Ryan and daughter Courtney. Private services.″

The same day, a fax was sent to the court in care of the assigning judge from someone claiming to be Mathison’s attorney, the newspaper reported Thursday.

``Mr. Mathison, who I believe has open cases in the county, has recently passed on. Thanks for your time,″ the fax said.

A copy of the death notice was included.

Instead of dismissing charges against Mathison _ assault, obstructing the legal process with force and driving with a canceled license _ a judge added the fax to the court file.

State Trooper Glen Knippenberg, who arrested Mathison in June, said he never believed the obituary.

``I’ve never heard of someone faking their own death,″ he said. ``People come up with great excuses why they can’t make it to court.″

Patricia Effenberger, Pioneer Press communications manager, said the newspaper verifies ads placed by families through checks with funeral homes.

The Mathison notice wasn’t verified, however. She said that such incidents are rare, and the paper regretted the error.

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