UW-Whitewater student's death ruled an accident
WHITEWATER Officials have ruled the July death of a UW-Whitewater student found at the bottom of a quarry was an accident.
The Walworth County Coroner's Office ruled the death of Benjamin Fuder, 21, as an accident due to a fall from the rim to the floor of the limestone quarry just south of the Whitewater city limits.
The cause of death was head trauma, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the Walworth County Sheriff's Office. Contributing factors were the presence of alcohol, marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to the news release.
"We found no evidence of criminal behavior, no evidence to conclude that he had met with any foul play," sheriff's Capt. Dana Nigbor said Wednesday.
Authorities interviewed all of Fuder's friends and witnesses, reviewed tapes and coroner's reports and pieced together Fuder's history through cellphone and computer records, she said.
The body of Fuder, a junior majoring in international studies, was found at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, July 29, at the bottom of the quarry below the north rim. He was a graduate of Edgerton High School.
Three tests were done to determine the level of alcohol in Fuder's system, and the results ranged from 0.1 to 0.2 blood-alcohol content, Nigbor said. The legal limit to drive is 0.08. She did not know the amounts of hallucinogens in his system.
Fuder had been drinking with friends in downtown Whitewater on Friday night, July 27, Nigbor said. At one point, his roommate told Fuder to go home, she said. He left the bar but later returned, she said. Fuder was last seen around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, July 28, heading in the direction of his home, she said.
"At some point along the way home, he ended up in the direction of the quarry instead of the direction of his home," she said. "We don't have all the answers, and we never will."
Fuder's wallet and phone were found in different locations within blocks of the downtown bars, she said. Fuder was reported missing at 11:37 p.m. Saturday, according to police.
When law enforcement start a death investigation, they always consider it a criminal investigation until proven otherwise, Nigbor said.
"This proved out fairly quickly that this wasn't going to be a criminal matter," she said.
People often look at the level of intoxication and conclude that must be the cause, she said.
"I'm not saying that at all. It's a combination of all the events on that evening," she said.
The death of another UW-Whitewater student, Mark Wegener, 20, also was ruled an accident after his body was found at the bottom of the same quarry May 30, 2011. Police say he left a party about 1 a.m. May 29, 2011, and was not seen again until his body was discovered. Authorities at the time said Wegener apparently fell from a 70-foot ledge. An autopsy revealed Wegener had a blood-alcohol content of 0.106, which would be above the legal limit to drive.