PART OF A REPORT LATER REMOVED FROM THE AO/LGM FILE ON NEVILLE SEALMAN
The electrocuted man was found dead on the northbound tracks of the Borrow Street station of the Chicago Transit Authority suburban line in Shoreview, Illinois.
Shoreview is a city of 80,000 located on the Lake Michigan western shore immediately north of Chicago. For our purposes here, it can be regarded simply as a place where middle-class Chicago employees sleep and do their weekend errands.
It was early March and the time was 5:50 PM … a dark, chilled, wet evening. No witnesses to the death of the individual calling himself Neville Sealman have come forward.
Despite the occurrence on CTA property, the Shoreview Police Department took jurisdiction and investigated. (The CTA police force is strictly a peacekeeping body). Sergeant Dothan Stablits of the Shoreview PD was assigned. Before the body was moved, a representative of the CTA legal department arrived, and was extended cooperation by investigator Stablits. They went through the decedent’s pockets together.
The contents supported identification of the decedent as Neville Unruh Sealman, a resident of south Shoreview. Documentation included an Illinois state driver’s license and Social Security and Blue Cross cards found in his unrifled wallet, which also contained a normal amount of cash.
Social Security files later revealed the number had been issued against a falsified application. The driver’s license had been properly acquired so far as procedures at the Illinois examining station went. (The decedent, however, never owned a car.) Records show the applicant identified himself at the time with a certified copy of Neville Sealman’s birth certificate, which seems to have been acquired through the now well-known method of searching small-town newspaper obituaries for the names of persons dead in infancy. [Neville Unruh Sealman, b. — d. 1932, Mattoon, Ill.] The decedent’s thirtyish appearance was consistent with the claimed age of 43 on the license.
The body was turned over to the Cook County coroner’s office and a search for next of kin was instituted. (None were ever located; no friends were found, and no one who had been acquainted with the decedent any longer than the forty-two months of his residence and employment in the Chicago area. All the decedent’s acquaintances were fellow employees or neighbors.)
Investigation at Sealman’s home address – an apartment four stops before the stop where the body was found – developed the information that Sealman lived alone and unvisited in a furnished one-and-one-half-room efficiency. Any clues found in the apartment all supported the Sealman identity, and none of them were older than the time of Sealman’s successful application for employment at Magnussen Engineering Co.
Magnussen is a free-lance drafting shop in a Chicago loft, and the requirement for filling a job opening is the ability to demonstrate standard proficiency at the craft; a Social Security number is the only document required of a prospective employee. No further information of any kind relating to his identity was ever found. His dwelling was unusually bare of knickknacks and personality. Nothing was found to indicate that he had ever been treated by any medical or dental facility, and this proved to be a matter of some concern in the initial investigation. (See further.)
Inquiry by Dothan Stablits at Magnussen indicated Sealman had been employed there since purportedly moving from Oakland, Cal. On the day of his death, he had left work at 5:00 PM as usual and boarded the Shoreview Express at the elevated State Street platform of the CTA. The northbound platform is visible from the windows of his place of employment, and he was observed in this action by his employer, who also described him as a steady, hardworking individual with nervous mannerisms and a lack of sociability.
Sealman’s apartment was in due course released to the building management, and the personal contents transferred to the Cook County coroner’s warehouse, where they remain unclaimed. Sergeant Stablits’s report accurately describes them as items of clothing and personal care products purchasable at chain outlets in the Chicago/Shoreview vicinity. [A copy of that report is attached.] [Attachment 6]
Sergeant Stablits’s Occurrence Report [Attachment 1] reflects a certain degree of uneasiness with the circumstances of the decedent’s death.
The Borrow Street station is located in a purely residential section. The timing indicates Sealman must have ridden directly past his normal stop, but Stablits was unable to ascribe a reason for his doing so. Despite publicity in the Chicago news media and in the weekly Shoreview Talk newspaper, no one ever reported Sealman missing from an intended visit. Sergeant Stablits (now Chief Stablits of the Gouldville, Indiana, Police Department) clearly felt that this loose end impeded a satisfactory clearance of Sealman’s file. But despite Sealman’s insufficient bona fides, there was nothing actually inconsistent with a finding of accidental death, and no compelling reason to expend further resources and press the investigation further – for instance, out of state to Oakland. When the FBI proved to have no record of his fingerprints, his file, though not closed, was simply kept available in the event some fresh occurrence might reactivate it. No such event took place.
The CTA legal department at first took a more than routine interest in the case. The Borrow Street station dates from 1912. It is located in a deep open cut well below the level of adjacent streets and dwellings, the right-of-way north of the Chicago elevated structures having gradually gone to street level and then below. This secluded location added to the unlikelihood of finding a witness to explain Sealman’s death. It’s safe to say the CTA was anticipating a negligence lawsuit by heirs.
Portions of the station structure have weathered to a rickety condition, and it is scheduled to be completely rebuilt in 1981. The condition of the platform is decrepit. Half the platform lights are not functional, and the exit stairs up to street level, cast in reinforced concrete and subject to extreme weathering action once the surface had spalled away to the included rust-prone steel, are frankly hazardous.
(The CTA operates at a loss, and is seeking some sort of public subsidy. Its trackage and equipment include property acquired from inefficient predecessor operating authorities and bankrupt private traction companies.)
Despite the nonappearance of immediate potential litigants, the CTA felt that all possible steps should be taken to exclude the possibility of the decedent’s having tripped, fallen to the tracks, and contacted the third rail as the result of some structural feature of the platform. Frankly, that seemed an obvious possibility, but a history of cardiovascular disorders in Sealman, or some other cause of chronic vertigo, would have done much to brighten up the CTA’s files. Almost as satisfactory would have been evidence to support a finding of probable suicide, or even of foul play. On none of these possibilities was Sergeant Stablits able to turn up anything that would help.
On finding there were no medical or dental offices located within reasonable distance of the stop, he made no further effort to locate any medical practitioner who might have had Sealman as a patient. His interest was limited to finding a reason for Sealman’s presence on that platform that night, and he indicated to the CTA that if they wanted to check with every doctor in the Chicago area, they could do that on their own budget. After this time, the CTA and Shoreview PD efforts continued separately (and terminated inconclusively separately).
In this atmosphere, a number of private as well as official communications were exchanged between the CTA, the Cook County medical examiner’s office, and individuals therein acting on an informal basis. As a consequence, the medical examiner’s office assigned its most experienced forensics pathologist to the autopsy, and that individual proceeded with great care and attention to detail.
Soon after beginning his examination of the thoracic cavity, this pathologist – Albert Camus, M.D. – notified the medical examiner that he was encountering noteworthy anomalies. The procedure was then confidentially completed in the presence of the medical examiner, and certain administrative decisions were then made.
The findings filed were consistent with death by electrocution and no other cause, which was in fact true according to the evidence, and the CTA was so notified. At some point, it must have become increasingly clear that no legatees were in the offing, so the CTA may not have taken Dr Camus’s official report as hard as it would have a few days sooner. In any event, the CTA’s file has subsequently been marked inactive, and there has been no change in that status.
The medical examiner’s file, however, reflects the great number of confusions raised by the pathologist’s discovery of what he described as ‘a high-capacity, high-pressure’ cardiovascular system, as well as a number of other significant and anatomically consistent variations from the norm. [Attachment 2]
At Dr Camus’s suggestion, a telephone call was placed to this office,* with the objective of determining whether these findings were unique.
On receipt of the call here, a case officer (undersigned) was immediately allocated by the Triage Section, and put on the line. A request was made to the Cook County medical examiner for a second autopsy, and Dr William Henshaw, a resource of this office, was dispatched to Shoreview via commercial air transportation. [Attachment 7, Voucher of Expenses]
At the same time, an AO/LGM Notification was forwarded to our parent organization. (EXCERPT ENDS)
NOTE: CASE OFFICER’S SIGNATURE