Without A Clue

The body of 34-year-old Douglas O’Brien (above) was found July 6, 1991, lying in a ditch in northwest Dallas. His black jeans were folded beneath his head and his tennis shoes were placed nearby. The medical examiner could find no cause of death: no drugs, no heart attack, no weird illness. The autopsy did show, however, that O’Brien, an amateur body builder, had been drinking and had died elsewhere.

Once the Medical Examiner’s office ruled O’Brien’s demise “unexplained,” the Dallas Police Department, following standard procedure, stopped actively investigating the case. That angered Bonnie Miller, a close friend of O’Brien’s, who hired a private detective to obtain the records of the investigation and find the reason for O’Brien’s death.

Lt. Ron Waldrop of DPD’s Homicide Division says that unexplained deaths are more common than the public suspects. In 1991, the M. E. ’s office labeled 62 deaths unexplained, but most of those bodies were badly decomposed. O’Brien’s case is highly unusual.

Waldrop says he shares Miller’s concern, but the case is closed. “To prosecute someone for murder you have to be able to show someone caused their death. I don’t know how to solve that without evidence of how he died.”