His mother, Penny Hetke, said her son said hello to a friend, took $20 out of the ATM, bought either a beer or a soda, and left the bar. It was the last time he was seen.
His family reported him missing on November 8 after he did not report for weekend training with the Guard.
|Plummer's Honda Civic|
Photo credit: WQOW.com
Plummer's body was found by Chippewa County Sheriff's deputies near a pile of brush, 30-40 yards down the hill from his car in the Hay Meadow Flowage area of the forest. He had on a coat, but his pants were unzipped and around his thighs. There were no outward signs of traumatic injury or a struggle.
The body was taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office where it was autopsied by Dr. Michael McGee. McGee noted that Plummer had non-life threatening contusions and abrasions to the face, arms, legs and back, but no traumatic injuries. He ruled that Plummer's death was caused by hypothermia due to exposure--his death was an accident.
Jay North, Russell's father, said that the Sheriff's Department told him that his son's injuries were consistent with having fallen down the hill.
But for Plummer's family and friends, the investigation and subsequent ruling left them with more questions than answers.
Plummer was a tough outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish and who knew those woods "like the back of his hand." He had also been through training with the National Guard and was scheduled to go to Afghanistan.
They questioned how Plummer could have died from exposure, just feet from the car containing his cell phone and a bag full of warm clothes.
Plummer's toxicology results had been negative for drugs and alcohol.
The family also received some conflicting information.
Since Russell was in the National Guard, the U.S. Army does a companion investigation. The Chippewa County Sheriff's department provides the Criminal Investigation Command at Ft. McCoy with information, and asks questions surrounding the case.
In one set of documents it was reported that, "the location and position of the body were inconsistent with a fall down the hill." In other reports, it shows Russell's injuries were "consistent with a tumbling fall or slide."
North says, "(The Chippewa County Sheriff's Department) told us all the injuries were consistent with him taking a tumble down that hill."
An investigator with Chippewa County reported to the Ft. McCoy office that there were too many trees on the hill that would've stopped Russell's body from reaching the bottom of the hill.
- WQOW.com, 11/16/10.
In late November 2010, a two-part investigation by Fox 9 News Twin Cities aired, questioning the way some death investigations had been handled by the Ramsey County Medical Examiners Office. After seeing that report, the Plummer family contacted Fox 9 investigators. They wondered whether Russell's death had been reviewed as carefully as it could have been.
The family also hired Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, a hypothermia expert from Canada. Giesbrecht told Fox 9 that, "something killed him immediately and he cooled thereafter, or something inhibited him and he cooled until he died."
The Fox 9 investigation noted that tissue samples of Plummer's heart and brain were never tested to look for medical conditions that might have caused him to die suddenly.
And tests for "date rape" drugs like chloroform, GHB, and Rohypnol--which might knock a person out--were never done, even though Plummer had last been seen at a bar and his pants were partially down. Routine specimens were collected as part of a sexual assault examination, but those tests were not tested to determine if another person's DNA was present.
Fox 9 asked two other forensic pathologists to review the records from Plummer's autopsy--both said they would not have come to the conclusion that Plummer's death was hypothermia until all other facts had been ruled out.
You can watch the Fox 9 video here.
About Russell Plummer
BLOOMER - Russell J. Plummer, age 20, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009, in the Chippewa County Forest in Wisconsin.
He was born March 24, 1989, in Rice Lake to Penny Plummer and Jay North. He attended St. Paul Lutheran School and Bloomer High School. He was a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and a recent graduate of Army Specialty Training in artillery weapons repair. He was also the honor graduate for his class at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He enjoyed being in the Army, hunting, fishing, being outdoors, working on and riding motorcycles, cars and snowmobiles, spending time with his family and friends.
He is survived by mother, Penny (Vinnie) Hetke, of Cornell; father, Jay (Rochelle) North, of New Auburn; maternal grandparents, Russell (Clancy) Plummer of Weyerhaeuser and Ruth Hetke of Bloomer; paternal grandparents, Jeanette (Kenneth) Bell of Cameron and Elmer (Eileen) Dahlberg of Barron; brothers, Vinny Hetke III of Cornell, Chad (Katie) Manor of Monroe, Casey Manor of New Auburn and Nathan Peterson of New Auburn; sisters, Dustine (Eric) Gass of New Auburn, Sachel Hetke of Cornell and Kaysa North of New Auburn; numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins; and friends.
He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfathers, Vinton Hetke Sr. and Allen "Whiskers" North; and best friend, Chip Rands.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, at Seventh Day Baptist Church in New Auburn, with the Rev. Wayne North officiating. Interment will be in the New Auburn Cemetery with full military rites.
Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Olson Funeral Home in Bloomer, and one hour prior to services on Monday at the church.
Online condolences may be expressed at olsonfuneralhomebloomer.com.
- Eau Claire Leader-Telegram obituary, 11/13/09.
Facts of Interest
Last Seen: 11/1/09, Mornings Corner Tavern, 18982 State Highway 124 # 64, Bloomer, WI
Recovered: 11/10/09, Chippewa County Forest, Chippewa County, WI
Physical Description: 5'5", 145 pounds, slim build, brown eyes and brown hair in a crew cut
Investigating Agency: Chippewa County sheriff's office, (715) 726-7701.