At 1:21 a.m., Hart spoke on the phone with Will, who was at the bar that night. The two spoke for 8 minutes, but it has not been reported what was said. It was the last time Hart's phone was used.
Friends say that around 1:40 p.m., Greg just got up and left the tavern without saying a word. Nothing unusual appeared to be going on, but Hart left the bar (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com, March 15, 2010).
Friends initially speculated that while they returned to their apartment, Hart may have gone to an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) on Promenade Street. But Hart's brother, JP, later told the Providence Journal that this wasn't likely. While he and his brother had indeed sometimes walked from the Red Room to the IHOP, it had been in the summer. Family members did not believe Greg would have walked to the pancake house in the rain, and there appears to be no indication that he did so. (Providence Journal).
Cell phone records indicate that, at some point, Hart's friend, Zach, tried calling Greg's phone (along with the police and local hospitals) to find out what happened to his friend.
Hart's family remained uneasy; Greg Hart's car was still parked outside the apartment building where he had left it, and his cell phone had not been answered.
By Sunday when he still hadn't returned for the St. Patrick's Day parade, they became "seriously worried" and they filed a missing person's report. (Boston.com.)
The Search for Greg Hart
Initially, police did not look for the missing University of Massachusetts-Amherst student.
When the police failed to search, family and friends of Greg Hart launched their own search effort. More than 50 people came to the aid of the Hart family, helping to look for Hart and/or post fliers around the area.
On Tuesday, March 16 at around 2:45 p.m., a family friend made a grim discovery just three-quarters of a mile from where Hart had last been seen. Hart's body was found washed up against a tree limb in the rain-swollen Woonasqatucket River in Providence, “half in and half out” of the water (ABC6.com). It was recovered by rescue crews from the Providence Fire Department.
From the beginning, the Hart family expressed fears that foul play might be involved with Hart's death. Hart was a licensed and experienced scuba diver and very familiar with the water. There had also been reports that some type of disturbance or altercation had occurred at the bar on the night that Greg Hart disappeared.
"When a sudden death happens in an unusual place under unusual circumstances, it’s suspicious."But an autopsy conducted by the Rhode Island Medical Examiner's office on March 17, indicated that Hart's death was a drowning and did not appear suspicious.
- Maj. Thomas F. Oates III, Providence Police Department
Yet, police said they would continue to investigate and treat the death as suspicious. "When a sudden death happens in an unusual place under unusual circumstances," said "Maj. Thomas F. Oates III, commander of the department’s investigative division, "it’s suspicious." (The Providence Journal, March 20, 2010).
On March 23, the medical examiner announced that Hart had been "highly intoxicated." The blood alcohol level was not released, but John Hart told the Providence Journal that investigators told him that his son's blood-alcohol level was more than .25. This is more than three times the legal limit of .08 for driving in Rhode Island. According to research by the paper, "most with levels between .21 and .29 would be subject to memory blackouts, staggering, double vision, loss of understanding of surroundings, poor judgment, impaired reactions and loss of balance."
Also at that time, police announced that they had found no evidence to suggest Hart had been involved in a fight. However, Hart's family said Hart's body had numerous injuries that suggested he had been in a fight, including: a broken cheekbone, jaw, eye socket, chipped tooth, cuts on his lips and knuckles, injuries to his palm and bruises on both legs in the same location. The family believes he was beaten up, possibly murdered.
Hart's father also said he believes a search should have been launched by the police after they heard about the possible disturbance at the bar.
The medical examiner addressed the family's concerns two days later, stating that any injuries found on Gregory Hart's body were caused after he drowned. His body had been in the fast- flowing Woonasquatucket River for an estimated 2-3 days. The Providence Police Department and the medical examiner maintained that there were no signs of foul play.
Private investigation by Hart family
The Hart family has hired an attorney to investigate the handling of the investigation. Police stand behind their investigation and say it was thorough, but the family has reported that the following areas are of particular concern:
Potential Conflict of Interest
Providence detective, Mark Sacco, who began investigating the case one day before Hart was found owns the property that the Red Room bar sits on. The bar itself is owned by Rebecca Caroll, the wife of Providence police detective, Shawn Carroll. The family of Greg Hart feels that this is a conflict of interest. In addition, there are no records of potential witnesses at the bar (e.g., bouncers, bartenders) ever having been interviewed by the police (ABC6.com).
Possible altercation at the bar
A police report, according to ABC6, says a disturbance of some kind (it is not known when or what type), occurred shortly before Greg disappeared. Hart's body had also suffered the type of injuries that may be indicative of a fight (broken facial bones, chipped tooth, cuts on lips and knuckles, bruising on palm and legs.) There were also two bruises in the same place on each leg, possibly caused by restraining Greg Hart.
Inconsistencies with police reports
The initial police incident report from March 14, states that police found Hart's cell phone and a house key in the bar’s parking lot. The report also states that police called his cellphone at that time and that it rang several times before going to voicemail. A police report two days later said that Hart's phone was found in the water along with Hart's partially submerged body and his driver's license.
Hart's Shattered iPhone
The police returned Hart's iPhone to the family in approximately 5 pieces. Officers told the family that even State Police experts were unable to retrieve any information from it because it had been in the water. However, technicians at AT&T told the Hart family that it had been taken apart in such a way that no information could be retrieved (ABC6.com).
Damaged indicator on iPhone
"This [phone] definitely wasn't in the water, definitely, 100 percent, this was not in the water."The Hart family was able to take the phone to data recovery experts at TechFusion. The company found that the phone could not possibly have been in contact with water, as stated in the police report. The style of the Apple iPhone that Hart had is equipped with tiny indicators deep in the phone that signal whether the phone had been submerged in water or a liquid. According to Alexander Gessen, a data recovery expert at the company, Apple has installed these indicators in order to help determine whether the phone has been submerged or come into contact with a liquid that might void the warranty. Evidence indicates that the indicator on Hart's phone, something very difficult to remove, had been intentionally scratched off.
- Alfred Demirjian, data recovery expert
Alfred Demirjian, a data recovery expert at the company said, "This definitely wasn't in the water, definitely, 100 percent, this was not in the water." (Boston.com, 11/1/10).
Data Recovery from Cell Phone
TechFusion was also able to rebuild Hart's phone and compare the text messages and phone logs to AT&T's cell phone logs to authenticate them. The data included a log of the last 100 calls and the contents of the final 599 text messages, which indicate that the iPhone was not in the water. The family has declined to release the contents of the recovered data for fear of compromising any criminal case that may come from it.
Length of Time in Water
A white shirt returned to the family seems to be more river-stained than the shirt that Hart was wearing over it. The family has also said that the body itself was not as waterlogged as it should have been after 48 hours in the water.
About Greg Hart
Providence Police Lt. George Stamatakos described Hart as “a nice kid with a great family." Gregory Hart had just moved to Dedham, Massachusetts. He was a cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he had studied economics and tutored students, and had been accepted into an officer's program to be a Navy fighter pilot. Relatives attributed his success to his hard work in school after receiving below-average grades his freshman year in college. He had just landed a new job at Meditech in Westwood, MA--a job that would give him some real money for the first time, according to ABC6.com--and he was scheduled to begin work on Monday, March 15. He was not typically a late-night partier.
The news has devasted his family. "He's my heart. I can't even function. Nothing's important anymore," said his mother, Marianne Hart, told the Providence Journal. Hart’s father said his son was his “best friend.” Relatives say he was also kind and generous, spending much of last year caring for his mother during breast cancer treatment.
Greg Hart will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Name/age: Greg Hart, 23
College: University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Last seen: 03/13/10, Red Room Tavern, One Fox Place, Providence, RI
Recovered: 03/16/10, Woonasqatucket River, Providence, RI
Residence: Dedham, MA
Physical Description: 5’8,” brown hair. He was last seen downtown Sunday morning wearing a grey leather biker jacket, a green hooded sweatshirt, black pants and black shoes.