Mystery Suicide Investigated
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ The pretty, young woman leaped off the top of a 12-story parking garage at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel Casino, apparently intent on keeping her identity a secret.
She got what she wanted. Her lack of identification and a mysterious absence of clues have prevented police from figuring out who she was, where she was from, and what drove her to suicide.
No one has come looking. No missing persons report matches her description. Her fingerprints do not match any in law enforcement files.
Her body still lies in the Atlantic County morgue. In a few days, a 45-day holding period will expire and she will be given over to a funeral parlor for burial.
But what will her gravestone say?
For official purposes, she is case number 98-11430. To police Capt. Gerald Tibbetts and Detective William O’Neill, the lead investigators in the case, she is the ``Jane Doe jumper.″
``Before I retire, I’d like to put this girl to rest,″ Tibbetts says, poring over a manila folder thick with paper but thin with clues. ``We don’t know who she is. If we can find out who we’ve got, we can start walking backwards in her life and get some answers.″
The mystery began Aug. 23.
Surveillance camera videotapes show the woman walking alone across a pedestrian bridge linking the casino with the garage.
She is white, estimated at 25 to 35 years old, 5 foot 6 inches tall, and wearing a crewneck knit blouse, blue jeans, a denim jacket and black sneakers.
Her head is down slightly, but she does not appear to be running, crying or otherwise in distress. Her right hand holds a tissue.
At 8:51 p.m., the videotape shows her getting off an elevator and walking into the garage.
At 8:55 p.m., the call came in to 911. One witness heard a thump and then saw the body on the ground. Another told police he looked up in time to see the end of the plunge.
A blue denim handbag found atop the garage contained no wallet, no identification, no money, no suicide note. There was only saline solution for the eyes, lip gloss and makeup.
Could any valuables have been stolen before police arrived? It’s possible, Tibbetts says. ``We don’t know if someone didn’t get to the wallet upstairs while all the commotion was going on downstairs,″ he says.
For that matter, the handbag may not even have been hers.
She was no street person. She was clean, her clothes were clean and she wore dark eyeliner. She appeared well-nourished, O’Neill said.
And her body showed hardly any evidence of the fall. ``She was in such good condition when she landed that the medical examiner questioned his own investigator before opening her up,″ Tibbetts said.
There was no hint of prior injuries, nothing to suggest a struggle, according to the medical examiner, Dr. Hydow Park. He ruled it a suicide.
There was nothing in her stomach. And no alcohol or drugs in her system.
There was one abandoned vehicle in the garage, but it was traced to an unlucky gambler, O’Neill said.
In almost any another town, developing clues in such a case would be easier.
But in Atlantic City, an adult Disneyland that attracts more than 30 million fortune hunters annually from all over the world, the odds of finding Jane Doe’s trail are slim.
``She could have come from anywhere,″ O’Neill says.
She does not fit the demographic profile of the typical suicide victim, which is primarily a man 65 and over.
And she was sober, unlike most impulsive suicide victims, according to Dr. Charles Meusburger, a psychiatrist who calls suicide ``the ultimate angry act.″
``This is a particularly exclamatory act because it was so violent and so definitive. This wasn’t a three-story building. This was someone who clearly wanted to die. The courage it took, coupled with the horrible, horrible torment the poor thing was in, to step off a 12th story rooftop is almost unthinkable,″ said Meusburger, chief of psychiatry at Atlantic City Medical Center.
The location, too, may say something, according to Meusburger.
``This wasn’t some quiet little corner of the world,″ he said.
In the meantime, the detectives are following dead-end leads and waiting for breaks.
``I’d like to send her home,″ Tibbetts says. ``Regardless, she has a right to a final resting place.″