CINCINNATI – While they agree that Brogan Dulle hanged himself, the Hamilton County coroner and an assistant police chief can't say how he actually did it, and they don't necessarily agree on when he did it.
With some people questioning why the 21-year-old University of Cincinnati student would kill himself and speculating that someone else might have taken his life, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco and Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey are standing by her preliminary ruling that Dulle committed suicide.
The two spoke separately on Bill Cunningham's WLW Radio show Wednesday afternoon.
"We did not see any evidence of foul play," Sammarco said. "And we only deal with evidence."
When Cunningham asked Bailey if Dulle could have been murdered, the assistant chief answered: "I don't think that's possible."
But both agreed that there was no table or chair or stool for Dulle to have jumped or stepped off in the dark basement of the building next door to his apartment.
Bailey said some people wrap a rope or cord around their necks and just "lean forward until they lose consciousness."
Police said they found Dulle hanging by a cord with a bottle of wine by his side.
There was nothing about the death scene to suggest anything sinister about Dulle's suicide, the two said.
Dulle was wearing his glasses and he was fully dressed in "the clothes he was last seen in," Sammarco said. No suicide note was found. She declined to answer other questions about the scene.
"I don't want to go into graphic detail because this is somebody's child," she said.
As to the question of when Dulle died, Cunningham asked whether Dulle might have gone into hiding for a day or two after he was last seen on surveillance video May 18, before taking his own life.
Bailey and Sammarco gave different answers.
TIMELINE: The search for Brogan Dulle
"That's possible," Bailey said. "When I walked into the building, the decomposition wasn't what I expected."
Dulle's body was found Monday night – eight days after he disappeared – on East McMillan Street in Mt. Auburn.
Sammarco said she judged from the condition of Dulle's body that he had died within hours after he disappeared.
But she added: "Decomposition is very difficult to accurately gauge within hours or even a day or two."
She said humidity and building conditions could affect the rate of decomposition.
Prompted by Cunningham, the coroner said police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell jumped the gun when he announced Monday night that Dulle's death appeared to be a suicide.
"The manner of death is the coroner's call and we weren't prepared to make that call," she said.
She said she wasn't able to thoroughly inspect the body until they took it to the lab.
Cunningham asked Sammarco how Dulle might have gone from the video image of him walking down the street looking for his cellphone to killing himself in a matter of hours.
"You're assuming he was looking for his cellphone," Sammarco answered. "All I saw on the video was a young man with a flashlight.
"You know what? I wasn't in his head. That's just what we've been told (he was doing)."
Later, Cunningham wondered again how a "happy" 21-year-old college student could hang himself.
"A lot of people go down that road for a lot of different reasons," Sammarco said. "As the daughter of a psychologist, I would not second guess."
The coroner said she had no knowledge that Dulle had any emotional issues and she was not told he was on any medications.
Sammarco said the toxicology report would disclose whether there was any "medication, illicit drugs or alcohol" in Dulle's blood – and at what levels.
She said the report usually takes four to six weeks.
For now, Sammarco said Dulle's family "seemed to accept" her ruling of suicide.
"They just had a couple questions," she said.
Sammarco said Dulle's family was "pretty composed" when she talked with them.
"What's getting them through this is the tremendous outpouring of support from the entire community," Sammarco said.