Au­thor­i­ties probe death linked to a boat crash

Au­topsy re­port awaited for ex-Rich­mon­der who was found dead in creek

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Front Page - BY SEAN GOR­MAN Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

LAN­CASTER — In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to comb through clues to learn more about the death of Gra­ham McCormick, a former Rich­mon­der and Ham­p­den-Syd­ney Col­lege grad­u­ate who was found dead fol­low­ing a boat­ing ac­ci­dent in a Lan­caster County creek last month.

The county sher­iff’s of­fice was first alerted that some­thing was amiss just af­ter 10:30 a.m. Aug. 11 when McCormick, 31, was re­ported miss­ing from the Irv­ing­ton home where he had been vis­it­ing friends. The per­son who called said the last time McCormick had been seen was by a dock near the home and said he may have fallen off the dock, said Maj. William Webb, chief deputy of the sher­iff’s of­fice.

But about an hour later, au­thor­i­ties said, they were alerted that McCormick’s body had been found in Carter Creek nearly 2 miles away from the home where

he had been re­ported miss­ing. The sher­iff’s of­fice even­tu­ally learned through their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing wit­ness state­ments, that McCormick had been on a boat that crashed into a bulk­head in the wa­ter, Webb said.

“He did not fall off the dock,” Webb said in an in­ter­view last week. “He ob­vi­ously died from the boat­ing ac­ci­dent.”

The state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice has listed the cause of McCormick’s death as drown­ing and the man­ner of death as ac­ci­den­tal. But Webb said the sher­iff’s of­fice is await­ing a fi­nal au­topsy re­port from the med­i­cal ex­am­iner be­fore com­ing to a con­clu­sion about what killed him.

Matt Broughton, a Roanoke-based at­tor­ney for the McCormick fam­ily, said his firm also is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the man’s death.

“Right now, we don’t know a lot ob­vi­ously, and we are just wait­ing to see what is re­vealed,” Broughton said.

Broughton said McCormick’s fam­ily mem­bers “re­ally miss Gra­ham tremen­dously.”

“They ap­pre­ci­ate all the out­pour­ing from the pub­lic and their con­cerns and love, and they ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery card and let­ter and ev­ery pos­i­tive state­ment and en­cour­age­ment about Gra­ham,” Broughton said. “This is an in­cred­i­ble young man ... very, very suc­cess­ful.”

McCormick, a cor­po­rate fi­nance analyst at SunTrust Bank in At­lanta, had been vis­it­ing friends at a home in the 600 block of Glebe Road in Irv­ing­ton. The home is owned by Gary Lee Hooper, a Rich­mond na­tive who is a former se­nior vice pres­i­dent at the com­mer­cial real es­tate firm Cush­man & Wake­field | Thal­himer.

Webb said Hooper was in Africa when McCormick’s body was found.

Hooper flew back and met with in­ves­ti­ga­tors at his home three days later, the sher­iff’s of­fice said in a search war­rant filed in the case.

Hooper al­lowed de­tec­tives to look around his prop­erty and they no­ticed bro­ken glass on the dock that Hooper could not pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion for, de­tec­tives said in court pa­pers.

They also no­ticed cam­eras around the prop­erty and were told by the alarm com­pany that from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10, the cam­eras were re­ceiv­ing data but no im­ages were avail­able, the sher­iff’s of­fice said in the war­rant.

The war­rant also sought in­for­ma­tion from Hooper’s cell­phone ac­count, in­clud­ing any text mes­sages, im­ages or videos stored on its iCloud ac­count.

It was dur­ing that Aug. 14 visit that de­tec­tives no­ticed there was dam­age to Hooper’s boat, a 1999 Bos­ton Whaler, ac­cord­ing to the court doc­u­ments.

In a fol­low-up visit the next day, Lan­caster de­tec­tives said they could see a hole in the fiber­glass hull of the boat, as well as scratches to each side of the ves­sel and dam­age to the “lower unit” of the boat, the search war­rant says.

Of­fi­cials also said in court pa­pers that the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Game and In­land Fish­eries did an ac­ci­dent re­con­struc­tion and con­cluded that the boat had been in a crash that oc­curred near where McCormick’s body was found in the creek that flows into the Rap­pa­han­nock River. The boat was also seized through a search war­rant.

De­tec­tives also said in court pa­pers that when they found McCormick’s body, he had a cut and scratches to the left side of his head and face.

Wit­nesses told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the night be­fore McCormick’s body was found, they had taken a boat ride and then gone to din­ner at the Trick Dog Café, the search war­rant says.

Fol­low­ing din­ner, wit­nesses told po­lice they re­turned to the home and that McCormick was last seen drink­ing on the dock with two other peo­ple who told po­lice that all three of them went to their re­spec­tive rooms around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 11, the search war­rant says.

Wit­nesses told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that they awoke later that morn­ing and couldn’t lo­cate McCormick, so they called the sher­iff’s of­fice to re­port him miss­ing, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Among the wit­nesses in the case is John Ran­dolph Hooper, Gary Hooper’s son, ac­cord­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, who said the younger Hooper was at the res­i­dence while McCormick was stay­ing there.

The younger Hooper told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he re­mem­bers get­ting the boat off the bulk­head af­ter it crashed but has said he does not re­call who was driv­ing the ves­sel, Webb said.

When reached by phone this week, Gary Hooper said he could not com­ment on the case, not­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing.

John Ran­dolph Hooper could not be reached for com­ment.

No charges have been filed in the case. Lan­caster Sher­iff Pa­trick McCranie said in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to probe the case seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion about the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing McCormick’s death.

“The guys are out there ev­ery day try­ing to place the pieces of the puz­zle to­gether,” McCranie said.

Former mall site


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.