A closer look inside the Becker death investigation

03/09/2016 5:58 AM |

Police diagram Becker drowning

The following was compiled using reports obtained from the Suffolk County Police Department’s initial investigation into the deaths of William and Michelle Becker. It was supplemented with information from previous articles published by The Suffolk Times.

• Investigators said the Beckers likely drowned sometime before 1 a.m. March 11, 1981. A state Department of Environmental Conservation officer told investigators Mr. Becker was “afraid of the water” and family members added that Ms. Becker didn’t know how to swim.

• A medical examiner’s report determined that Ms. Becker’s blood alcohol content was .20 and Mr. Becker’s was .22. Witnesses who were with the Beckers the evening of March 10, 1981, said Ms. Becker drank a grasshopper and some white wine. Mr. Becker drank beer, they said, with one witness later adding that he also consumed scotch that night.

• The dock was icy and the water was 38 degrees around the time the Beckers are believed to have drowned. Police said the inlet was about seven and a half feet deep.

• While Mr. Becker was found wearing his DEC police uniform, Ms. Becker was wearing only a robe, socks and a sweater. Her slippers were found on a dock near a friend’s boat, inside which her husband’s tie was located under a broken table. Investigators surmised that Mr. Becker may have fallen into the water while attempting to plug a space heater into the boat.

• A medical examiner who inspected Mr. Becker’s body said he was “struck by the apparent lack of rigor, except for one arm.” Ms. Becker’s body was in full rigor mortis, the medical examiner said. The position of Mr. Becker’s body was also questioned, with witnesses saying he was found face up but physical evidence suggesting he may have drowned while face down.

• Blood was found on a bolt on the dock near where Mr. Becker’s body was found, but a medical examiner determined the sample was “insufficient.” Hair samples found on Ms. Becker’s robe were never tested due to “a lack of known exemplars.”

• Southold Town police removed guns from the Becker home the morning Mr. Becker’s body was found. An initial report states they removed three weapons, though an evidence log lists four. Throughout the investigation, police attempted to ascertain if Mr. Becker was carrying a service weapon at the gathering he attended the previous night. One witness said he did have a gun, but later changed her statement to say she was unsure.

• An August 1981 report by Suffolk County Police Detective Thomas Schmitt concluded with two possible theories. The first was that one of the Beckers, “due to their intoxicated condition,” accidentally fell into the water and then the other person fell in while trying to help. The second theory was that the Beckers “could have possibly become embroiled in an argument again resulting in one or the other being pushed into the water and subsequent realization in an attempt to help the other resulted in their death.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said hair samples were taken from Mr. Becker’s belt. They were actually taken from his wife’s robe.

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