Eerie Echoes in Real-life Tragedy and HBO's 'True Detective' Story Meme
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When the bodies of three men in their 30s were found dead in the backyard of a friend, it sounded like the kind of mystery that would kick off a HBO series. Because the men were outside for 40+ hours, many thought they froze to death; but the true cause of death has yet to be revealed (and it may be weeks before that is learned.)
Then a little more than two weeks after the bodies were found, HBO's current series "True Detective: Northern Lights" featured a scene in which the frozen bodies of three men are retrieved from an icy lake. A strange case of two converging mysteries, both ongoing with one likely to be solved by February 25 when the sixth and final episode is aired. But the real-life story will likely go on for some time.
In that scenario, a group of high school buds get together to watch the Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday night; one leaves after the game. Then 48-hours later three of the men are found frozen in the host's backyard. The survivor – HIV scientist Jordan Willis – had passed out and slept with news canceling headphones on, oblivious to the reaching out by the victims' families.
"For two days, the families of the victims say they visited Willis' home, called him and sent him Facebook messages asking where they were. He did not respond," reports the Daily Mail.
"Eventually, the fiancée of one of the men broke into the house through the basement and found the first body in the backyard. She then called police, who arrived to find Willis in his underwear, holding a wine glass."
On Tuesday a friend told the Daily Mail that Willis had checked into rehab. "Jordan Willis took the events of that night and the days after as an 'enormous, heartbreaking wake-up call', a friend said.
"The deaths of his friends made him realize that he had a problem with addiction and needed to seek professional help, the insider told Fox News."
At the same time TV outlet KSN reports the families of those three men -- David Harrington, Clayton McGeeney and Ricky Johnson -- met with the Platte County prosecutor.
"The most important thing to these families is that now they feel as though this is being taken seriously – not only by police but also by prosecutors, according to the attorney for Johnson's family," writes KSN. "Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, at this time, they still are waiting for Kansas City police to conclude their portion of this investigation."
KSN adds that "FOX4 also learned the three men were alive in the wee hours of Monday morning, maybe as early as 1:30 a.m. It wasn't until late Tuesday night that McGeeney's fiancée went looking for him, broke into the home and found a body."
The DailyMail.com has also revealed the identity of a fifth man seen at the party during and. Shortly after the game: Alex Weamer-Lee.
"He is a high school pal of the victims whose bodies were discovered two days after the celebratory gathering on January 7 – but says he left at midnight after the football finished and when everyone was alive."
How the men died has yet to be revealed. Investigators "have not said publicly whether they believe drugs or alcohol were involved in what might have been three relatively sudden and simultaneous deaths, though it's clear that that's a possibility they are considering. Weather records indicate the low temperature that night was around 33 degrees (1 degree Celsius),"
KSN reports in a timeline of the events
The department is still waiting on a ruling on the cause of death from Frontier Forensics, Gonzalez said. It's a private company that proves autopsy services for numerous counties across Kansas and Missouri. Once police get the cause of death back, she said, they will be able to provide additional updates on the investigation.
"They are an entirely separate entity from the police department, so we have zero impact on the timeline of their medical findings," Gonzalez wrote. "We have been notified it could be as much as an additional six or more weeks to receive the toxicology reports."
So speculation will continue for some weeks to come.
In an unexpected cultural coincidence, the fourth season of HBO's "True Detective," called "Northern Lights," featured three male victims in their 30s found frozen in a lake. The men appear to be a ghoulish modern sculpture when inspected by the police. Even the New York Times has appropriated it a cultural meme – "the corpsicle."
In true HBO fashion, a policeman mistakenly breaks the arm off one of them, who screams in pain, coming back to life.
Writes Times reporter Livia Albeck-Ripka :"Frozen bodies are a familiar problem in this fictional Alaska town near the Arctic Circle, but this giant 'corpsicle' is unusual. And so is what happens in the episode, which aired last Sunday: one of the men wakes up when his arm is accidentally snapped off by an officer."
But the shocking moment led to more questions. "Many were skeptical that the human body could survive such an ordeal and wondered if the show was straying into the supernatural," Albeck-Ripka continues.
"Doctors say that it is impossible for a completely frozen person to make a recovery. But it is possible for someone who appears frozen – limbs stiff, skin cold and hard, and without a pulse or breath – to be resuscitated, depending on how long the person has been out in the cold.
"'If all the tissue in your body is ice, or has ice in it, then you're not coming back,' said Ken Zafren, a physician and a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University, who also works in Alaska. But, he added, 'I've seen plenty of cases in which the person really looked dead, and could come back.'
"During hypothermia, an adult's body temperature can cool well below the normal average of 98.6 degrees, Dr. Zafren said. A person's pulse and breathing slow significantly, reducing the body's need for oxygen. Eventually, the person may go into cardiac arrest, stopping the pulse and breathing altogether. But because the brain is cold, the lack of oxygen takes longer to cause damage, he said.
"A person could persist in this state for several hours before being completely frozen, he added, noting a medical maxim: "No one is dead until they're warm and dead."
That the Kansas City victims froze to death is still speculation, and the three victims on "TD" weren't attending a tailgate party. Both remain unsolved mysteries with the real-life one likely to persist for months to come.