February 5, 2008

02/05/08: Nicholas Garza, 19, Middlebury, VT

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.

The Search
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/


Nexus said...

Note the similarity to the Willie Jacobson case: two men leaving a party disappear, only to be found later in some body of water. Looks like drowning in both cases. But is it accidental drowning?

Some relevant questions: 1) Why did Nicholas spend only seventeen minutes at the party? 2)Did someone know he was coming? 3) Who, if anyone, phoned ahead to Stewart Hall to let someone there know that Nicholas was coming? 4) Who, if anyone, placed a call as Nicholas was leaving Stewart Hall? 5) Were these calls placed from cell phones or house phones? 6) Was the call or calls placed from Stewart Hall to a pay phone or to a traceable or untraceable number? 7) How many, if any, calls were placed? 8) If cell phones were used at Stewart or Allen Halls, do they have traceable owners; and, if not, can anonymous cell phone calls still be detected at these locations, say, between 10:40 PM and 11:05 PM on the evening in question? 9) Could scent dogs be used to trace the movements of all those having some connection to the case and are known to have been at or near the vicinity of Stewart Hall on the evening in question? 9) What was Nicholas told at the party, and who did he talk to? 10) Who invited him? 11) What did Nicholas talk about before the party, and who did he talk to who can verify this? 12) Who offered him drinks at the party and at what time or times? 13) What was in those drinks, and how long before any one of several types of incapacitating drugs he may have ingested take effect?

Additional thoughts: Where was Smiley's cargo van that evening? Answer: Nowhere. There wasn't any need for it, was there?

And, finally, about copycats. I suspect that in all these cases there is a narrow window of verisimilitude. To get a coroner's verdict of accidental drowning with no sign of foul play you'd therefore have to commit the perfect murder. Any changed m.o. would therefore have to preserve certain quintessential touches to ensure final confirmation, otherwise forensics blows the whistle. If it looks real for Josh Szostak and Nicholas Garza when the m.o. shifts, it probably is. But who else knows how to get it just right? A nexus, perhaps? Copycats beware.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the posts from The Footprints at The Rivers Edge, and I came across the post where it spoke of an order of heirachy, insignia's and the color purple. I also read that Nick Garza was traced by scent dogs by frat houses on the Middlebury campus. Could it be a induction into a fraternity? Maybe we need to look at the Middlebury campus frats where Nick went missing and look for the color purple and investigate from there- How do we get a list of what frats are on the college campuses in Middlebury and lets look at the Ithaca campus where Willie Jacobson also disappeared-I am going to also post this at the Rivers Edge Blog-

Anonymous said...

I just graduated from Middlebury. There are no frat houses on our campus. We have something similar, but they are co-ed. I am also a member of one of these houses, and I can assure you that there is nothing in the induction ceremonies that would in any way have merit toward this case.

Anonymous said...

This case shows up as a NY case but it is a VT case...just wanted to clarify.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for catching my error; I will make the change!

Anonymous said...

Just want to note that Middlebury does not have frats or sororities. Zero Greek Life. Also, Mr. Garza disappeared during the college's one week recess between the end of "Winter Term" (a month long mini-semester where students immerse themselves in just one class) and the beginning of spring semester. This means that most likely not that many students were on campus. Honestly, having visited Middlebury many times and being very well acquainted with the student body and atmosphere of the school, I can say with great certainty that it definitely was not "an inside job". The school is so tiny and close-knit that if anything in the form of initiations or so on were going on at least someone would find out. I do believe that a SFK gang could potentially exist and Mr. Garza's death does seem suspicious in my opinion however if any foul play was involved, i am 100% positive that it was not a group of people involved with the college.

Anonymous said...

I would like to mention that there is a thorough police report floating around on the internet (I will try to find the link) that goes through all the details of this case. Based on accounts from some of his good friends, they noted that there had been occasions when Nicholas had been drunk and would get severely disoriented when trying to find his way back to his dorm, even when the distances were short. One of his friends even noted that once when they were together trying to get back to their dorm, they got so disoriented that they ended up completely on the other side of town. Based on accounts that were given by friends who were partying with him the night he disappeared, he had been drinking very heavily and had consumed shot after shot in a very short period of time. Although a death without a witness is always suspicious, I would just like to state that it seems that there is a good chance that his death may have truly been a tragic accident. Having been to the Middlebury campus myself, this series of events is not far fetched especially if one is very drunk and it is the middle of the night in the middle of winter.

Nick Garza said...

Please provide the "accounts."

There have been neither statements nor reports: (public or private) that have suggested that Nick would often get drunk and disoriented.

Good friends? His good friends said he would never leave the campus. Sadly they were gone during the winter break.

"Based on accounts from some of his good friends, they noted that there had been occasions when Nicholas had been drunk and would get severely disoriented when trying to find his way back to his dorm, even when the distances were short. One of his friends even noted that once when they were together trying to get back to their dorm, they got so disoriented that they ended up completely on the other side of town."

anonymous said...

I graduated from Middlebury College that year and was actually behind Garza as he purchased the bottle of alcohol using his fake ID on 2/3. I didn't realize this until later and alerted Hannaford's, where he bought the alcohol, that I had witnessed this and knew as a freshman that he was underage. This is a common occurrance at Middlebury one in which I was guilty of committing when I was a freshman as well. My friends and I were startled after hearing about the SFK but it does appear to me as a past student of the college that this was a tragic accident. The only thing that appears suspicious, and let me also preface that I am not sure of the exact location where Nick's scent was traced to the creek, but to have gotten to the creek from where he exited his last known location is a good mile walk in the opposite direction from where he would have wanted to go. It's sad to think he was so intoxicated that he wandered that far only to eventually fall into the creek and pass away.

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Teresa Rohlin said...

There is a book out called Missing 411 and I used to live in Vermont and Nicholas Garza's story haunts me as to what happened to him. I am very sorry for his family for their loss as he seemed Like he had so much of life in front of him. I am listening tonight on the radio about this book and young men who are taken.

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