Carrie Wooten

Curiouser and Curiouser...

Filed By Carrie Wooten | March 22, 2007 10:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Facebook, purdue university, wade steffey

With the discovery and subsequent identification of Wade Steffey's body on Monday in a Purdue dormitory's high-voltage utility room, rumors and speculation have erupted on campus with many believing there is more than meets the eye with Wade's death. Wade Steffey, a 19 year old freshman, is believed to have died from accidental electrocution after walking into an unlocked storage room in January. With many holes in the theory, including how 8 K-9 units could not pick up his scent, why he would be trying recover his coat from a building in which he did not live from a friend who he had already called but who did not answer, how two men who did a cursory inspection of the room the week Wade went missing did not smell his burned body while a maintenance worker who walked in three days ago immediately smelled it, why the day students arrive back on campus from spring break Wade's body suddenly starts being heard making popping noises from grounding electricity, etc., many have been left uneasy with the given explanation.

To take action with all of the questions that have remained largely ignored and unanswered by the powers that be, I decided to devote a Facebook group to the subject so that others who shared my skepticism could voice theirs as well. The group entitled "Wade Steffey Didn't Trip..." gained 74 members in two days and was running wild with posts on various theories or bits and pieces of the story that weren't adding up. It was a huge success. But today, I got home only to discover that Jeanne Norberg, the Purdue spokeswoman who has been dealing with Wade's death, had not only joined the group but also posted on how she considered the skeptical views we all had voiced "disturbing." Four hours later, my group was removed from Facebook. I recieved a notification about a complaint against my group and its removal and that if I made a further violation of their policies, I might lose my access to Facebook altogether. No evidence was offered as to why my group was in violation of Facebook's policies (normally groups who are slanderous or disrespectful are reported and removed). However, none of the content on my group was in violation of Facebook's stated policies. And adding to the curiousness of my group's removal, the group "Wade Steffey was Abducted by Aliens" is still up and running. Clearly, whoever lodged a complaint against my group was motivated by other factors than concern about it being "disrespectful."

Is the right to question authority now being policed on a site that is supposed to promote the free exchange of ideas? I'm very concerned. We are recreating the group which will again be titled "Wade Steffey Didn't Trip..." and I encourage anyone (who is a member of Facebook) who is interested in the case and has doubts about its validity to post your concerns. We won't let Big Brother win easily.

UPDATE:
I have spoken with Jeanne Norberg several times since posting this last night and feel confident that she was not behind the deletion of my group. I have gotten further information that a group of zealots are combing Facebook groups about Wade and reporting any that they don't particularly like. Still curious as to why they wouldn't attack "Wade Steffey was Abducted by Aliens." Big Brother still seems to be at work.


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When I first saw his picture, it set off my gaydar. I could be totally wrong, but it did cross my mind that he might have been the victim of a hate crime. Of course, this is purely speculation on my part.

Here's the Answer | March 23, 2007 6:43 AM

Translation:

Don't piss off the Purdue brass.

And, that Norberg woman is a beady-eyed little cuss. There was obviously tension in the room between Purdue and the Steffey parents at that final news conference.

Both parents are artists, and they're beginning an auction soon of donated works to raise money for missing children, and other good causes. I briefly heard about this worthwhile effort on the car radio, but do not know any details. If any Bilerico readers could amplify...

trevor ryan | March 23, 2007 8:34 AM

Oh yes....that Norberg woman is in this up to her elbows.....she's part of the Purdue cover-up team....listen to everything she says...."apparently he did this" apparently he did that" she is spinning for Purdue like Rush Limbaugh does for the republicans....Purdue is facing a gigantic lawsuit for negligence. Isn't it funny how Norberg shows up on every facebook post...she's out there folks, watching and waiting to put out her spin.......beware!!

So do this, Carrie. Put up a statement on your Facebook group that says that Facebook pulled the group originally so you're moving somewhere where you know you won't get yanked. And then move the discussion over here. :) (I think this is basically what you've started doing! LOL)

I have to admit, I haven't followed this story that closely with everything else going on around me. I saw the picture of him and some other guy on TV the other night. My first reaction was "They both look like gay kids. I wonder if this is a hate crime?"

Is there any truth to that idea? Do you know if Steffey was gay or not?

I know that the gay rumor and hate crime rumor have definitely been circulating... but with no one in the media pressing very hard for details about he case and all the loopholes that have come with it, it'd be very hard to prove at this point. Several people have said that his parents substantiated that he was gay, however I haven't found anything published to support this.

trevor ryan | March 23, 2007 11:59 AM

i too questioned whether or not he was gay but there is nothing other than speculation that says he is. personally i dont think he is...and it really doesnt matter if he is or isnt. whats really needed is the autopsy report to see how he really died...im not believing the electrocution...i think he was put in that room over spring break when not too many students were around...its hard to believe that those dogs which are trained to find cadavers were unable to come up with a scent if they were used that close to the building...im also wondering what kind of autopsy was perfomed, was it complete or simply a visual that determined he had markings on his body from electricity...even if he was dumped weeks after he was killed his body would have the markings of electrocution

and back to the gay thing...if he was killed due to a hate crime wouldnt there be evidence of his murder on his body? and also how much hate is there for gays on a college campus? i dont think this has anything to do with being gay other than hes a good looking guy and its someones wishful thinking.......

michael edwards | March 23, 2007 12:00 PM

i too questioned whether or not he was gay but there is nothing other than speculation that says he is. personally i dont think he is...and it really doesnt matter if he is or isnt. whats really needed is the autopsy report to see how he really died...im not believing the electrocution...i think he was put in that room over spring break when not too many students were around...its hard to believe that those dogs which are trained to find cadavers were unable to come up with a scent if they were used that close to the building...im also wondering what kind of autopsy was perfomed, was it complete or simply a visual that determined he had markings on his body from electricity...even if he was dumped weeks after he was killed his body would have the markings of electrocution

and back to the gay thing...if he was killed due to a hate crime wouldnt there be evidence of his murder on his body? and also how much hate is there for gays on a college campus? i dont think this has anything to do with being gay other than hes a good looking guy and its someones wishful thinking.......

WitchyProf | March 23, 2007 1:38 PM

You can't look at someone's photograph and tell if they're gay. Whether he was gay or not doesn't help explain his death. Guys get killed on college campuses for all sorts of reasons. At Columbia University some years back, a guy got shot standing right in front of his dorm, with his girlfriend, because muggers were angry that all he had was a one-dollar bill in his wallet. At MIT not so long ago, a fraternity hazing wound up with a dead student from overdose of beer. Bad stuff happens, and most of the time it's due to somebody's bad decision or malicious intention, or both.

In Wade's case, there are several key factors that make an intelligent person stop and think.

1. Why was the outside door open (fact)? Why was there no warning sign on the door to a dangerous room (even if it's not legally required!)? It's very hard to believe that campus staff who maintain such a room full of such dangerous equipment would have left the outside door open; it's more likely that somebody who wasn't supposed to, broke the door open for some nefarious purpose. Who? And When? Would Wade have done that? Would a smart, capable kid like Wade have been climbing around unusual-looking back doors in a cellar, and rooting around in a dark room full of electrical transformers in the first place -- drunk or not?? Assuming he had stepped in there to find a way into the dorm -- would he have poked his head in the door to see if there was a way in and felt for a lightswitch, or would he have just plowed on into the completely dark room, let the door shut behind him, without being able to see anything, and bumbled ahead through a room full of loudly humming transformers (they do make noise), not knowing whether there was going to be a real way out of there? Somehow, that doesn't seem like something Wade would do, given the fact that he was a smart and capable young man. In my experience, smart and capable young men usually make smart and capable decisions, even if they are pretty drunk.

2. Why didn't they check *every* single last room in the dorm thoroughly -- especially since (A) he was last seen near there, and (B) they kept getting his cell phone signal from the northeast part of the campus even a week later (fact)!

3. Why didn't anybody smell a dead body in the building for over two months (fact)? An electrocuted body burns from the inside out. It would have been decaying for two months, and it would have had an exceptionally strong odor. Such an incredibly pervasive odor would not be masked 24/7 by the fragrance of fabric softner towels in the dryers across the hall. Was the body kept at below freezing the entire time? -- this is difficult to believe, since the room was inside of the building, and pipes would have burst if the temperature had been below freezing, just like they would in the basement of your house. Even a dead mouse would stink a place up. I had one die inside the wall in my office on campus once, and it was absolutely impossible to go anywhere near the room and not be completely overwhelmed by the incredible stench, from just one tiny mouse. It was all up and down the halls.

4. Why did people just start hearing the "pinging noise" the day after Spring Break (fact)? What exactly was the "pinging noise"? Was it the sound of electricity, or the sound of something gone wrong with the equipment? Are there no sensors in such a room to warn of electrical overloads or diverted circuits? Why wouldn't anybody hear this mysterious "pinging" noise for over two months, and then just suddenly start hearing it after Spring Break?

5. Why isn't the investigation being led by the Police? Why is the university doing the investigation? Normally, when a person is found dead, it's the police and their forensic team that shows up to collect traces and recover remains. Why was the university allowed to take the door handle away? Wouldn't it have had Wade's finger prints on it if he had opened the door and gone in there by himself? Wouldn't the police have wanted to recover the fingerprints from the door handle? Why is the university being allowed to remove such important evidence? Is the university not subject to the same laws as everybody else?

WitchyProf,

They think that the outside door lock malfunctioned - it is supposed to shut and lock behind anyone who leaves the room. It has been sent away for testing.

The pinging noise, which was later described as a popping noise, was the sound of Wade's body grounding the electricity.

Police secured the lock and sent it away for testing, not the university.

Mike Wilson | March 23, 2007 6:52 PM

" and back to the gay thing...if he was killed due to a hate crime wouldnt there be evidence of his murder on his body? and also how much hate is there for gays on a college campus?"

I think this is very naive thinking. It only takes one person to commit a hate crime. Universities have no exemption from hate.

I too found the story behind this kid's disappearance and death an interesting story.
I had also thought Wade might be gay, but upon
thinking about it, the only reason I thought that was because he was a cute, young guy. I did some investigating on Purdue message boards which led me to Wade's MySpace page. From reading his page
I would have to say Wade is straight, he even lists that he is straight in his personal info and that combined with his tastes in music, movies, a couple of his posts, and some of the comments from his friends also strongly suggest
he was not gay. As I mentioned, I read all of the message board posts from the Purdue on-line
webpage and found a couple interesting comments
from someone named "redheadedone." About a week after Wade's disappearance this poster commented on what happened to Wade. They mention the possiblility of a revenge, something between friends, between "lovers" and a possible rage gone wrong incident. This sent chills up my back!
Why would someone mention motives like that?
Why revenge and "between lovers?" About a week or so later the same poster left a similar comment. Now here's the kicker..The day the body was found, before the news had mentioned it was Wade, someone had posted 18 photos on the same website. Three of the photos were of the crowd
that was standing around watching the body being removed. In the crowd is a RED HEADED MALE!!
And, I could almost swear that on the MySpace site, among the friends photos was this same guy only with a close crewcut. Coinsidence OR was there a guy that had a crush on Wade, hoping he was gay but when it turned out he wasn't, went nuts and killed him, stashed the body somewhere
until spring break and then put it into the utility room? You would think the school would be
checking this possibility out because murder would
be less expensive in court than negligence.
Google Purdue message boards to find this, the post I believe was on Jan 20th.

About the lock --

Carrie (above) said:

"They think that the outside door lock malfunctioned - it is supposed to shut and lock behind anyone who leaves the room. It has been sent away for testing."

According to what Carrie said above, if somebody *leaves* the room through the *outside* door, then the *outside* door lock was designed to shut and lock behind them -- which would mean that the outside door to the room would then be locked. However, the outside door was *not* locked when they found Wade.

Has it been determined whether or not the outside door was actually locked at the time they did the original search back in january? According to this report (below), it *was locked in January*.

"Norberg said an earlier campus search for Steffey included the Owen Hall complex. She said residence hall employees did not have keys to the room, which was normally locked as it was on the day of the search."

http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2007a/070320PoliceSteffey.html

Note: "as it was on the day of the search." Meaning that the outside door was *locked* on the day of the search.

However, it was *not* locked two months later, when a worker heard "pinging" noises.

How did the outside door get from *locked* in January to *unlocked* in March?

The original search in January was stated to have been from the *inside* door with the two different locks for access -- not the *outside* door. Did the outside door not have a key (i.e., a door that locks when it shuts) and that's why they opened the room from the inside?

If the outside door was unlocked in January when they did the search, then who unlocked the outside door after the January search, when, and for what purpose, and did they see Wade or know of him?

Carrie -- I was confused about the University's role in the door-lock investigation. You are right, the police took it away. In some articles it said that the University was conducting a private investigation of the door's locks, which had me confused about it.

"The university plans to conduct an independent investigation, though the details of it have not been decided upon. It could include having an office at Purdue run an audit or hiring an outside corporation to examine the door's locks, she said."

http://www.jconline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070321/NEWS0501/703210348

Greg,

I would think that murder would be much more costly to Purdue than negligence... it's coming up on time for kids to finalize their college decisions and send in those tuition checks. Parents don't want to send their kids to a school that has a high-profile murder on its hands that hasn't been resolved.

WitchyProf | March 24, 2007 2:17 AM

Has anyone heard anything more about the "shifting" cell phone signal?

In an early article, it was reported that his cell phone transmitted signals in the following pattern, showing some kind of *movement* across the campus:

Jan. 12: area around the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity house where he was at a party that night before he disappeared

From Jan 12 to Jan. 17: a "triangular area roughly bounded by Russell Street, State Street and Northwestern Avenue"

After Jan. 17: "The signal then shifted to the location where volunteers searched Saturday [Jan. 20]. That included much of the academic campus, Ross-Ade Stadium, Mackey Arena, a construction site and Cary Quadrangle residence hall, where Steffey lived."

Source:

http://www.jconline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070121/NEWS0501/701210354/1034

Carrie,

I don't know, if it was a murder the only
people that i see could be held responsible might be the coroner or the university police for lack of investigation. However, if it's a negligence thing then the school is responsible for allowing a student to be able to enter an area that posed a risk - what if that utility area had been a known secret by students for a way of entering
in the dorm after hours, lot's of lawsuits there!
BTW.. I found that post i was talking about. I don't know if there is anything to it other than speculation on my part, but it does say some interesting stuff, especially given the time it was posted;


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just let 'em talk....or write Posted by: redonthehead on Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:52 pm
I think this forum and the opportunity it offers to vent lets everyone feel better about this whole thing. I say just let everyone voice their thoughts without restriction.

As far as doing that.....with all the people on campus, and all the people Wade apparently knew, I'm just finding it difficult to believe it was a random crime-thing by a couple a guys from Missouri. I don't know why I say that, I just feel that way...or maybe I can't accept that it could be that random and impersonal. That's why I feel it might have been one of those revenge things, or mindless fit of rage, or some other senseless act that caused this, and if that is the reason, then whoever may be involved found a place to hide Wade that no one has discovered yet. It just seems like if these kinds of disappearances go on for more than a couple weeks, then the only thing that happens is some chance discovery months afterwards. Man.....I hope that's not what happens.

From the Police side of things, I'm sure they're just as concerned, and share the same frustration voiced in these forums. It has to be hard to be on the inside of this investigation and look at how long it's been since he was last seen, to try to reassure the family, to try to put pieces of a puzzle together when you don't even know what the picture looks like, and all the while (in spite of great efforts) still find no hint whatsoever of Wade, his belongings, or even his cell. This has got to be one of those nightmare crimes that no one in Law Enforcement wants to end badly, and I hope and pray they find the wisdom, and that break, so they can resolve this to everyone's - especially the family and friends - satisfaction.

My opinion about the room light being left on is that it's no big deal. His roommate says that's normal for him and Wade. Kids just do that. Mine did....and it always showed up on the electric bill.

The cell? Triangulation works, but it depends on where the towers are, and the distance between them. That will be a large area. The issue here is that his cell did not have GPS locate function on it. So the wide area is all you can work with. No small feat. My first thought was that the cell may have been dropped into a trash can or dumster on campus. There's tons of those, and batteries do run out. I don't know what to think about all that now. If it was dropped in a can or dumpster, then it's time to sift through the landfill.

Heat sensing wouldn't do any good if the worst happened that Friday night. The big problem is that he wasn't offically reported missing until 3 days or more later. Even if he were nearby and injured seriously, surviving 3-plus days in the weather we had that weekend would be astounding, especially if he didn't have a coat with him like I heard in the first couple news reports about all this. Of course....it's been known to happen. I'd like to think it did, but hindsight is pretty worthless now.

As far as what "we're" being told....I'd prefer the Police keep the important information close to their chests. I'd rather they investigate, solve, and then prosecute with solid evidence, as opposed to telling me everything I want to know and tainting their investigation. I'm perfectly content to speculate and babble in these forums while they carry out the real investigation.

Unfortunately, I can't see a happy ending to this anymore. It's not that I'm a pessimist, I just think it's just gone past the limits of realistic hope. If I'm proved wrong, then fantastic! If it ends badly, then the family and friends will need support, and strength. Hopefully a successful prosectution will help ease the pain of this nightmare for them someday.

Coinsidence or confession?? The other post that mentions "lovers" is somewhere in the other posts between Jan and Feb.. This would make such a good book or movie!!

My son came home tonight and we talked about Wade's story. My son is 25, and a lot like Wade in many ways (good-looking, really smart, highly capable). He says it's possible that a student would find his way into a room such as that, if he wanted to get into that dormitory. He said students do stuff like that a lot.

I can't believe it, and it scared me to think that my own son could even comprehend such a situation.

My own son has done some things that have scared me. He is brilliant and successful, like Wade was, and it's hard to believe the things he has done sometimes.

*If* it's possible that Wade actually found a way into that room by himself and met his demise thus, my only thought is -- why isn't there more vigilance on the part of universities to let students know where the dangers are.

A sign on the outside door might have gone a long way toward preventing such a catastrophe. Extra locks and extra precaution should be taken by universities to prevent young students from taking such risks.

Whether or not it was "legally required," it would seem to me that a university should take into consideration the fact that our young students sometimes take risks if there aren't abundant warnings and barriers in place. All of us need to protect our children and students from harm's way.

I would hope that universities everywhere would take some time to consider all of the possible dangers in the student environment, get them analyzed and labeled, and get the students warned about them.

This idea of "not talking" about some things is what gets young people into trouble. Parents, professors and school officials have the duty to talk with youths about the facts of life and the dangers of life, to protect them, and nurture them, so that they survive, succeed and blossom.

Whether legally required or not, the university has a *moral* commitment to the students to let them know where the dangers are on campus. It should be spelled out in writing -- in the student Handbook -- where the transformer vaults are, and what will happen if students venture in there.

I still find it hard to believe that a student such as Wade could have entered that room, and I hope that more information will emerge to let us know more about what really happened so that we can understand this incredible catastrophe.

I feel especially bad for the students who live in Owen and have to deal with the horror of their fellow student meeting such a demise.

I feel terrible for Wade's parents. I just don't know how I could so on if I were them. I feel the university owes them something for the loss of their only son. What can replace a beloved son or a daughter?