Remember the pregnant lady cop in the movie Fargo? Marge Gunderson? Who didn't seem too bright but was actually smart as a fox and patient as a crocodile, as she solved a series of brutal killings in her North Dakota town? Well, they need Marge down in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Because the Aberdeen cops can't find their way out of a wet paper bag when it comes to the 2004 shooting death of openly gay activist university professor Morgan Lewis.
Lewis was found dead just outside his office on the Northern State University campus, and the murder weapon was found buried in a dumpster 40 yards away. How the gun walked 40 yards after Lewis died in a pool of blood is anybody's guess. But for five years now, local police insist on identifying Lewis's death as a suicide.
In June, I wrote about gay-bashing as a form of terrorism, and flagged Lewis's death as a cold case for murders of LGBT activists. The other day, I heard from a former NSU student who is outraged at this display of seeming "stupidity" by the Aberdeen police. In reality, their position is probably an official and jut-jawed and deeply biased refusal to deal with a violent anti-gay crime in their district. The reader emailed me the link for an update in the local paper, the Argus Leader. Headlined Findings defy suicide ruling for professor, the piece by Jeff Martin says:
"New details are emerging this month in a federal lawsuit, which sheds more light on the mysterious shooting death of a Northern State University professor in 2004. Two key experts in the case now dispute the Aberdeen Police Department's conclusion that Morgan Lewis took his own life, the new documents show."
Among the new details that point to murder, rather than suicide: Gunpowder residue was found inside the victim's wallet. Lewis's skull was fractured in such a way that he must have been beaten -- whacked in the head by an assailant before being shot in the neck. Lewis was a southpaw, yet the gunshot wound was in the northpaw side of his neck.
The new details are coming out of a federal lawsuit filed by Lewis' partner, James Buck, who inherited Lewis' estate. He is claiming a $150,000 insurance policy, which the insurer, Prudential, is sturbornly refusing to award because police have stubbornly termed the death a suicide. It makes you wonder if Prudential made it worth the police department's while to stand pat on such a friendly finding, despite all the evidence for murder that is piling up.
Aberdeen city attorney Adam Altman is backing up this "police work" done by the city's gumshoes. He says, "The city of Aberdeen is convinced that this was a suicide and we don't have any reason to believe otherwise."
But local commenters on the Argus Leader story aren't supportive of the city's position. One commenter said: "I am not sure who Mr. Altman is speaking for but it is definitely not for all the citizens of Aberdeen. There are a great many of us that have never believed in the 'suicide' story and continued to be embarrassed and appalled by the findings in this case. .... Not hard to get away with murder in Aberdeen, South Dakota."
Indeed. Aberdeen law enforcement sends the message that it's okay to kill gay people in South Dakota. If they're finally compelled to admit that Lewis was murdered, I hope that every city official who had input in the "suicide" ruling is prosecuted and disgraced.
You have to read the whole Argus Leader story to see the long list of grim details in the new findings. Officer Gunderson could have figured it out between breakfast and her mid-morning snack (she was eating for two through the whole movie). Where is Marge when we need her?
Hat tip to Keith Hanson.