On the night of February 5th, in the midst of a week long winter break at Middlebury College, Nicholas Garza, 19, and friend Taylor Smith began power drinking shots of Bacardi rum and tequila in Nick's room. A tally is kept and it is estimated they drank 8-10 shots in 10-15 minutes before going to another room t0 level themselves off to reach their age (18 and 19). They stop drinking about 9:15. There are various accounts of Garza’s level of intoxication, ranging from none at all to highly inebriated, but most of Nick's friends said he normally did not appear drunk, but it sometimes hit him suddenly. He was last seen leaving Stewart Hall at 148 Chateau Road at 11:05 pm to walk back to his room. His key card was never used to re-enter his room, so it appears that he never made it the some 500 yards north to his room. His body was found in Otter Creek on May 27, 2008.
Nick spends 20 minutes getting drinks and shot glasses ready and cutting up grapefruit because they didn't have lemon. Nick goes back to his room to get the bottle of unopened rum that he purchased using a fake ID at Hannaford's Market on 2/3.
8:15 - 8:30 p.m., Nick Garza and Taylor Smith began power drinking shots of Bacardi (rum) and Tequila in Nick's room. Taylor kept a tally and estimated they drank 8-10 shots in 10-15 minutes.
8:30 - 9:00 p.m est They went to friend Emma Lennon's room for 20-30 minutes, then decided to even-off their shots to 18--the same as their age
9:00 pm They go back to Taylor Smith's room and drank approximately 8 more shots. (On 2/11/08, police retrieve the bottle of 1.75 bottle of rum thought to be used and 11.8 was missing.)
9:15 - 9:30 p.m. They stop drinking.
10:33 Garza's card accesses Battell NE
10:37 Garza's card accesses Allen Hall
10:45 Francesca Lambert texts Garza that she is at Stewart Hall
10:47 Ben Brown calls Garza
10:48 Nick Garza calls her to tell her that he and Taylor Smith are coming over.
10:53 Garza calls Francesca Lambert and asks her to let them in because he says he does not have his card. Taylor does have his card, but Francesca lets them in. 3 other friends are there.
11:00 Taylor Smith leaves
11:04 Garza leaves friend Francesca Lambert on 4th floor stairwell, east end of building. He asks others to go to Allen Hall, but they refuse. He "hits on" Francesca, but she refuses.
11:05 Taylor Smith calls Garza. Friends Getterman and Wilson see Garza walking down stairs.
11:06 Nick uses his cell phone to call Francesca Lambert.She doesn't answer.
11:07 Taylor Smith's access card is used to enter Allen Hall.
On February 6th, students called Nick repeatedly. They also visited his room. With no response, campus security was notified. The same day Nick's room was searched, finding his only winter coat, laptop, and iPod. All items that Nick would have taken with him if he was going away on a trip. Nick’s mother, Natalie Garza, speaks to Nick nearly every day via email, texts, and cell phone calls. She said she received a text message from her son at about 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 5. On Saturday, February 9th, having not heard from him in three days, she contacted campus security and expressed concern and requested that his room be searched. She was told he most likely went on a camping trip with friends and they would wait until the students returned. When she was notified that the group returned and Nick had not been with them, she immediately filed a missing persons report with the Middlebury Police on Sunday, February 10th.
A search of the Middlebury campus has failed to provide any clues as to Nick´s whereabouts. A door- to-door search was also conducted. On Monday (February 11), police searchers spread out across the campus. About 40 searchers scoured the Middlebury College campus Tuesday (February 12) as temperatures dipped to 11 degrees. Police dogs and their handlers searched snow banks and a Vermont State Police team walked through a cemetery, poking poles into the snow in hopes of finding something.
RecoveredNick Garza's body was found in Otter Creek on May 27, 2008 after Tom Hanley, Middlebury's police chief, caught sight of Garza's red plaid shirt in a log/debris pile adjacent to the base of the falls. He was not wearing a coat, and did not have one that night. The wallet, containing Garza’s photo identification, and the phone were in the pockets of his jeans, Hanley said. According to the police report, "all of the belongings he was known to have left with the night of his disappearanc were found on his person (contents of wallet - several form of identification to indlude a fictitious ID, cell phone, campus access key card)."
An autopsy showed Garza suffered no injuries or trauma. Police chief Hanley said, "There is no sign of foul play,” The next step is to put together all the information that we have. We’re hoping the medical examiner’s report could give us that keystone piece of evidence we need.”
The final official police report ultimately indicated that it was not possible for the medical examiner to determine Nick's blood alcohol level conclusively due to the period of time he had been in the water. The cause and manner of Nick's death could not be medically determined, but the investigation is closed and his death was classified as a non-homicide. Police say "no further information has been received to indicate that this death is attributable to anything but an accident."
View the police report
Facts of Interest in This Case
Name/age: Nick Garza, 19
College: Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
Physical Description: 6'2", 150-160 lbs.
Last Seen: 02/05/08, Stewart Hall, 148 Chateau Road, Middlebury, VT
Recovered: Otter Creek
Cause of death ruling: not able to be determined
Manner of death ruling: non homicide
Blood-alcohol content: inconclusive
Weather: light rain/freezing rain earlier in evening, then snow beginning on 3:42 a.m. on 2/6. A few days later on 2/11, the air temperature was reported to be 11 degrees on 2/11.
Official website: http://www.nicholasgarza.org/