February 22, 1998

02/22/98: Nathan Kapfer, 19, La Crosse, WI

Nathan Kapfer, a 19-year old student attending Viterbo College in LaCrosse, WI on an academic scholarship was last seen in Riverside Park after being released from police custody for disorderly conduct. His body was later discovered in the Mississippi River.

After having dj'd a local party, Kapfer headed to Brother's Bar, a downtown pub. Although he was not regarded by his friends as wild or particularly belligerent when drunk, when the bartender refused to serve him because he was intoxicated, he became agitated, authorities said, and "cursed at the bouncer after being escorted out of the bar." Police were summoned and they picked Kapfer up, but rather than lock him up, they released him at 2 a.m with four citations for disorderly conduct. Not long afterwards, his hat, wallet and police citations were all found neatly arranged near the Indian statue in Riverside Park. Kapfer was nowhere to be found.

Nathan's body was found in the Mississippi River, downstream from La Crosse, 42 days later. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Lindsay Thomas of the Minnesota Regional Coroner's Office (MRCO). The findings were pulmonary congestion, watery gastric contents, and a mastoid petrous ridge hemmorrhage, but no injuries from trauma were found. His blood alcohol content was determined to be 0.22.

Unanswered Questions
Police had given Kapfer a breath test when they stopped him, and Kapfer recorded a blood-alcohol level of 0.077, just under the legal limit. When his body was discovered in the river over a month later, an autopsy determined his blood alcohol level at 0.22 at the time of death, twice the limit. Sometime between the time he was cited and the time he drowned, Kapfer continued to drink, possibly with someone else, police believe. [Note: the blood alcohol content is also said to increase in the body after death as cells break down, especially in drowning victims. I have been unable to find any information as to whether this would be the case here and if so, if it is possible to have increased by so much.] Police closed the case and determined there was no foul play involved, and to this day are unable to explain the difference in blood-alcohol content.

The possibility of suicide has been mentioned, however, Kapfer's father said he was upbeat in the days before his death. Kapfer's live-in girlfriend, Angie Truttman, then 23, told investigators that while Kapfer would have had a great deal of stress and anxiety over the tickets he received, especially the idea of disappointing his parents and possibly facing disciplinary action from the baseball team, he wasn't the type of person to take his own life. According to the case report, friends described Kapfer as hard-working and levelheaded. He was an A or A-B student who apparently had told more than one person that committing suicide was ``selfish'' and ``a cop-out.''

Two days after Kapfer was reported missing, a La Crosse resident told police that he had witnessed a young man, in his late teens or early 20s, standing on the east side of the Cass Street Bridge and staring into the water, ``oblivious to the rest of the world around him.'' This occurred about 1 p.m., before Kapfer was cited by police, and the witness couldn't identify the man on the bridge as Kapfer.

Kapfer's father believes the drownings have too many common characteristics to be solely coincidental. "I can't believe that [all these] kids just fell or jumped into the river," he said in a telephone interview (Source: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 8/29/99).

Facts of Interest in this Case
Name/age: Nathan Napfer, 19 (from Glendive, MT)
College: Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI
Physical description: athletic (baseball player)
Last seen: 02/22/98, 2 a.m., Brother's Bar (306 Pearl Street) in La Crosse, WI, then LaCrosse police station
Recovered: 04/04/98, Mississippi River backwater
Cause of death ruling: drowning
Manner of death ruling: undetermined
Injuries: no injuries of trauma or signs of foul play
Blood Alcohol Content: 0.22 (no drugs in system)
Reported water temp: 37 degrees

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Release someone at 2 am?That sounds fishy to me.Sounds to me like LaCrosse has some killers on the police force.