March 17, 2012

01/08/12: Michael Philbin, 21, Oshkosh, WI

Published: 1/27/12 3:25 p.m. CST      Updated: 1/17/12 1:56 p.m. CST

Michael Philbin
Michael Philbin, 21, son of Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, disappeared at around 2 a.m. on Sunday, January 8 after spending time at a bar with some friends who are students at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Philbin lived 20 miles away in Ripon, Wisc., and planned to stay the night at a friend's residence in Osh Kosh. Friends reported missing at 8:13 p.m. Sunday when he still hadn't returned. His car was still at the friend's residence.

According to the Post Crescent, "Philbin arrived Saturday, Jan. 7, about 8 p.m. He went with a group to a house party on the corner of Wisconsin Street and Scott Avenue where a birthday party was in swing. About midnight, the group left the house party and went to Kelly's, a bar at 219 Wisconsin St." While they were there at the bar, a 20-year old blonde woman Philbin did not know came up to Philbin and asked him to walk her to her friend's house, according to the paper. Philbin agreed and left the group about 11:30 p.m. He had GPS on his phone, but they became lost while looking for the friend's house. The pair then went to Topper's Pizza on Wisconsin Street, but she left with a friend before the pizza was ready. Philbin walked back to Kelly's Bar.

"At the time the woman was with Philbin she told police he did not seem intoxicated. He had no trouble walking and his speech was not slurred," said the paper.

According to the paper, Philbin arrived back at Kelly's bar, but around 12:30 a.m., "his friends left go to Polito's, a pizza place on High Avenue near campus. Philbin chose to stay behind at Kelly's with members of the birthday party." The birthday party group then moved to Molly McGuire's, a bar near campus. Phillbin was identified on surveillance tapes there, but he apparently didn't stay long.

Shortly thereafter, Philbin was seen on surveillance tapes at Kelly's Bar. At 1:23 a.m., the tapes show him exiting Kelly's on the east side and going into the parking area. He then went back inside the bar two minutes later.

At 1:42 a.m., surveillance shows Philbin leaving the north exit of the bar escorted by a bouncer. Bar staff told police they asked Philbin to leave because he was bothering a group of women. The video reportedly shows him stumbling inside the bar. Police noted that for the last half-hour to an hour the video shows he had very little contact with anyone inside the bar.

Philbin left the bar alone, and walked in a northwest direction toward the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus. Although he passed out of the view of the camera, his shadow lingered and showed him turning to the west, in the direction of Rockwell Avenue. It was the last time he was seen on camera.

According to the Post Crescent, "The last call or text coming from Philbin's phone occurred at 2:10 a.m. from the area of the 800 block of Algoma Boulevard. He texted a friend "Uh." The friend told police he called Philbin at that time and asked him if he needed directions back to the house on Frederick Street. Philbin said he was fine and knew how to get back to the house.

At 2:36 a.m., not long after the call, a security guard at Axle Tech on High Avenue called 911 to report that he someone was in the Fox River, about 30 yards out near a section of thin ice, calling for help.

According to the Post Crescent, "Initially the guard thought the hollering was college kids in the area just yelling or talking loud. He leaned against the window and listened. He heard the sound again. He grabbed his flashlight and jacket and went outside and walked down Rockwell Avenue toward the water. He panned his light over the icy water and saw a hand or foot sticking out of the water and saw splashing and realized it was a man struggling to stay above the surface. He estimated he saw the man for 30 seconds at the water's edge before he went under. He called 911 on his cellphone."

The 911 call prompted Oshkosh Fire Department divers to begin search and rescue operations, but the search team did not find anyone. The search for the man in the river continued until 3:30 p.m. that day without success.

The following morning, county divers returned to the scene with scent dogs and sonar scanners to resume their search; they discovered a body around 3 p.m. The body was later identified as Michael Philbin.

Police officer Joseph Nichols told that temperatures had been unseasonably warm in the Oshkosh area -- 50 miles from Green Bay -- and that there was only a little bit of ice around the edge of the river.

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 police ruled out foul play; the preliminary autopsy report indicated a freshwater drowning and the body bore no signs of a struggle.

In March, Philbin's death was formally ruled an accidental drowning. According to the Post Crescent, "Blood tests indicated he had marijuana and alcohol in his system at the time of his death. Philbin's blood-alcohol level was 0.176 percent."

Unanswered Questions

On March 16, 2012, the Post Crescent reported that the final police report shows that there were some unanswered questions in the investigation. First, the police were not able to account for Philbin's whereabouts during the last half hour of his life before he drowned. The time period that was unaccounted for was between the phone call with his friend and the security guard hearing him yell for help--about 35 minutes.

Second, said the paper, "the distance between the bar and the area at the foot of Rockwell Avenue where Philbin fell through the ice is less than half a mile. How he got there and why he headed in that direction after leaving the bar just before 2 a.m., rather than heading toward his friend's residence on Frederick Street where he had been staying, are questions that may never be answered."

About Michael Philbin

Michael Philbin, a student at Ripon College, is the son of former Green Bay Packers coach Joe Philbin, who was recently named head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He was the second oldest of six children. He had just turned 21 on Dec. 28.

According to the Post Crescent, "Philbin had been coming to Oshkosh about every other weekend during the past school year. They did the typical things college students do: Meet friends, go to bars, eat pizza. The weekend of Jan. 7 and 8 was no different."

Case Details

Name/age: Michael Philbin, 21
Last seen: 01/08/12, Kelly's Bar, Wisconsin Street, Oshkosh, WI
Recovered: 01/09/12. Fox River
Residence: Ripon, WI
College: Ripon College


Davis, Nate (2012, January 10). Timeline: The death of Michael Philbin. USA Today. Retrieved January 27, 2012.

Wolff, Patricia (2012, March 15). Investigation fails to account for last half-hour of Michael Philbin's life before he drowned. Post Crescent. Retrieved March 17, 2012.


Mbaz said...

This is some serious flaw in the justice system. How they can rule out foul play so early is beyond me. The kid obviously didnt go down to the river and jump in by himself.

tennessee111 said...

Looks all planned to me. I have seen a similar pattern before

not long after the call, a security guard at Axle Tech on High Avenue .....

An axle is part of a wheel. Also with the letters rearranged they spell Alex.

Alexander Keyes Allen, 18
Last seen: 07/19/11, near AMC Theater in SPOKane

03/05/11: Alexander Grant, 19, Saratoga Springs, NY
Sep 22, 2011
Grant was involved in philanthropic activities for City Meals on WHEELS

there is more that links them together

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