Pete Mathews was colorfully described by a fellow student as a ‘gentle giant, or ‘man-child’. He was known to crave attention and actively seek the approval of authority figures. When it came time to telephone the parents, the detective was careful not to alarm them with the darker reason for the call. Until a positive ID was made, He had to proceed with the assumption it was not their son in the cold room. Missing person inquiries had to be approached with finesse; lest it create a panic where there need not be any.
After explaining that he rarely called home during the semester because of his studies and student activities, the Mathews family were understandably alarmed. They had no idea he was missing; or why he had abandoned all of his possessions at the dorm. Both of his parents readily agreed to come down to police headquarters to aid in the investigation. The Detective wisely requested that they also bring in a couple recent photos.
As much as he wanted to identify the dead man at the coroner’s office and solve the case, he hoped his hunch about their missing son was wrong. They seemed like very nice people and he could tell they would be devastated to lose their only child to such a senseless tragedy. Still, the young man in the drawer was someone’s son. Eventually he would have to give someone’s parents horrible news that no one ever wanted to receive.
When they stepped into his office and introduced themselves, Phil felt an overwhelming pang of dread. The missing student’s father bore more than a passing resemblance to their ‘John Doe’. He did his best to maintain a relaxed, professional atmosphere despite his unpleasant suspicions but when they handed him the photos, his heart sank. Any lingering doubts that he had before were gone. All that was left were the dreadful facts and a positive identification at the morgue.
Mr. Mathews stood solemnly beside the drawer and nodded when the sheet was raised. His Mother wept openly at the unmistakable evidence of her only child’s young life, cut short. All the promise and hope she had for him was gone. There was nothing that could reverse the cold reality. A thousand memories flooded through her mind, in a perpetual loop of pain. Tears slowly welled up in Mr. Mathews’ eyes and he held his wife in an effort to comfort her.
The Medical Examiner and detective excused themselves so the Mathews could grieve and come to terms with their loss. No matter how many times Phil had to face that scenario, it never got any easier. There was no way to prepare for it; and no comforting words that could take away their pain. Only time and answers had the potential to heal that wound. He fully intended to provide the latter.
Now that he had the victim’s identity, he could begin the next phase of the investigation; to find out why. He offered his sincerest condolences to the grief-stricken parents and vowed to uncover the reason for their son’s mystifying death. The department’s grief counselor stepped into his office to offer therapy to deal with the stress of notifying families of the deceased. Whether completely ‘voluntary’, or department ordered as a mandatory function to keep his job; any therapy would have to wait until the case was solved.