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Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015

Police rule out foul play in body found in ditch

Friday, August 13, 2004

The body of a man found in Clay County Sunday afternoon has been identified by police as Daniel A. Lueckel of Terre Haute. Clay County Det. Mike Heaton said the cause of death has been ruled a suicide.

The 24-year-old former Rose Hulman student had a history of depression and according to the family, had attempted suicide previously.

Lueckel's body was found in a culvert under U.S. 40 about a quarter mile from the Staunton flasher light. Two ATV riders were riding in the area when they discovered a blue tarp under the culvert. When they got closer, they saw feet sticking out from under the tarp. The riders yelled, and after receiving no response, they called 911.

Under the tarp, with the body, was a 9mm Beretta handgun and a spent casing. The body was lying on a blue pad inside the tarp and the tarp was folded over the body. Also inside the culvert was a black backpack that continued personal items.

There were also car keys and a credit card located in the backpack with Lueckel's name. The family had reported him missing to the Terre Haute City Police on July 27.

Dr. Roland Kohr determined the man had died between midnight and 6 a.m. Sunday. Concerns were raised at the autopsy about the trajectory of the bullet and that Lueckel's 1998 gold Dodge Spirit was missing.

The vehicle was found Aug. 11, in the parking lot of the old Pizza City restaurant located off of US 40 and Hunt Road in Vigo County near some apartments. This was approximately seven miles west from where the body was found.

Detectives did a door-to-door survey of residents asking about the car. It was reported that the car had been there for several days. One apartment worker said he saw a white male around the car changing clothes, then walking away with a backpack.

After the car was impounded and processed by Indiana State Police Technician Andy Lohrman and Det. Heaton, it appeared that Lueckel had been living out of his car for a while. Heaton said it was implied to him that the man was a very meticulous individual. There were clothes, a sleeping bag and cans of food in the car. There was also a box that once contained the 9mm handgun that was found with the body. Other key items that were collected helped rule out foul play.

Detectives and Clay County Prosecutor David Thomas met with Dr. Kohr on Aug. 12, and presented him with the findings from the scene, the car and the information that the family had provided. Dr. Kohr then ruled the death as a suicide, the cause of death being the result of a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

"We felt that it was a suicide from the beginning, Detective Heaton said. "There were no signs of a struggle."

Dr. Kohr said, "during the autopsy, there were things not consistant with suicide. But you have to look at everything. After talking with the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Indiana State Police, based on all the information available, the overwhelming evidence was consistant with suicide."

Heaton said that every suspicious death is investigated as a homicide until evidence and other facts determine otherwise. Officials consider the case to be closed.

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