Please help me find out what happened.
September 27, 2010 12:58 AM   Subscribe

I need to find out how my father died. It's not possible for me to contact relatives to get this information. Please help.

I have not seen or spoken to my father in about 17 years. Today I learned (through a very strange confluence of events) that he died a couple of weeks ago in Glendale, AZ. His obituary offers very little information, saying only that he died "unexpectedly." Given what I know about my father's life story and family history, I suspect that his death was a suicide. I looked up police call logs for the day of his death in Glendale, and two suicides were reported. This has unsurprisingly stirred up a lot of emotions in me, and not being certain of the circumstances surrounding his death is making things worse. I feel that in order to move on, I need to know if my suspicions are correct.

I tried to order a copy of his death certificate, but that was a no go. The record will not be available until November 13th. I can't wait that long. Contacting family is absolutely out of the question. I'm not going to get into specifics here, but this is not at all possible.

What are my options? Who can I contact to get this information? I should also probably mention that I'm in Los Angeles.

Thank you.
posted by MiaWallace to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you talk to the police?
posted by taff at 12:59 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Police call logs (at this link) show the street address, and you can use various property records to confirm that he lived there.

Have you tried just calling the police department and asking nicely?
posted by acidic at 1:05 AM on September 27, 2010

I can, but I'm not sure who I need to talk to there. I was hoping people would have suggestions about who I'd need to speak to, as big city police departments tend to be rather byzantine.
posted by MiaWallace at 1:06 AM on September 27, 2010

My father was somewhat transient, so property records are unfortunately no help.
posted by MiaWallace at 1:06 AM on September 27, 2010

Can you call a Private Investigator (PI) in the AZ area and see if they'd be able to help. That'd keep it under wraps and get you some information fast, but you'd have to throw some money around.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:14 AM on September 27, 2010

Go ahead and call the local police, and be prepared to be transferred around from department to patient and as acidic said above use as much nice as a phone voice can possibly convey and I think someone will try to help. You're his child for goodness' sake.

If that gets you nowhere, what about the newspaper/site which printed the obituary? Other than a library, it's the best place to find an intrepid researcher who will try their best to help you get more information.
posted by squasha at 1:15 AM on September 27, 2010

Just try any of the non-emergency lines that aren't clearly wrong (like, not the gang hotline or the graffiti hotline). They'll just transfer you around to the right person. If they decline, hang up and try a new number.

Or you can maybe call the county medical examiner, or the funeral home if that was mentioned in the obituary. The more information you give (you are the estranged daughter, etc) the more sympathetic you will sound.
posted by acidic at 1:16 AM on September 27, 2010

Also be aware and watch out for yourself. You're very likely going to be experiencing a lot of emotions and thoughts that you might not expect. At strange times and in phases. Take care and don't put *all* of your energy into this one basket. Good luck on both your search and getting through this harsh time. And, I'm sorry for the difficult situation you are in.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:17 AM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

There was no funeral information in the obit or anywhere else online. It just said that a memorial would be held at a "future date." I'm assuming this memorial would be held back in Maine (which is where we're from, and where he spent 99.9% of his life... it's really bizarre that this happened in Arizona), with the aforementioned uncontactable family in attendance.

iamkimiam- you're right. Thank you for your advice and kind words.
posted by MiaWallace at 1:26 AM on September 27, 2010

Following on acidic's comment: get a certified copy of your birth certificate or other court document showing him as your father to have on hand. Then contact the county medical examiner. If it was an unexpected death, there are likely laws that there would have been an autopsy. (I know the ME here in NC deals with families all of the time.)

I can't say that an autopsy will fill in all of the blanks, but will at least give you more data.

It looks like the EMS report might not be available to you, and you would certainly need local legal help.
posted by ES Mom at 3:42 AM on September 27, 2010

A long shot, but try calling a neighbor. You never know what they might know. Obviously you will have to have the right friendly words and tone of voice all prepared. You can sometimes identify a neighbor using a reverse address look-up. Just enter the street for a list of everyone on the street.

Try here:

Good luck.
posted by Kevin S at 5:02 AM on September 27, 2010

I think he would have been taken to the hospital, so they may have a record that they will share. You could call the city coroner's office as well.
posted by theora55 at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2010

I'm sorry for your loss.

Did they give you a reason as to why the death certificate will take so long? I work for an attorney who does estate work, and we have to have copies of the death certificates to do our work, and they are usually available fairly shortly after the individual's death - we never had to wait a month and a half...
posted by Lucinda at 5:35 AM on September 27, 2010

Hire a lawyer and get them to talk to the uncontactible family?
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:46 AM on September 27, 2010

The police department may have a records office, out of which they process all incident reports -- check for that number or ask if that department exists. In Colorado, a full name, date of birth if the name is common and approximate date of the incident is enough information. They may have a policy about not providing reports until any investigation is closed, but it sounds like that may be the case here.
posted by freshwater at 7:31 AM on September 27, 2010

The death would have been reported to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office and the death would have been investigated. An autopsy might have been performed, but at minimum, there would be a medical examiner assigned to the case. The information contained within the medical examiner file is public information in AZ and you need not have any special relationship with the decedent (i.e., I could walk in there and ask for a copy of the investigation file and get it). Call the office and ask to speak with an investigator and/or ask to speak to the Medical Examiner assigned to the case.
posted by teg4rvn at 2:37 PM on September 28, 2010

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