Alabama lawyer Chace Swatek died of undetermined causes, and a law-enforcement official says cause of death probably will not be known for six months or more.
Captain Larry Palmer, of the Pelham Police Department, said an official cause of death would not be known until toxicology tests are completed. He said there were no marks on the body or evidence in the area to suggest that foul play was involved. That means testing in the Swatek case will take a relatively low priority at a time when Alabama forensic scientists are stressed by heavy caseloads and tight budgets.
"I've seen cases like this take six months to a year," Palmer said.
Palmer did clarify one item about the Swatek case. According to news reports, Swatek's body was found at a construction site near the Shelby County Services Building in Pelham. Palmer said the body actually was discovered in a vacant lot.
"A water line is being laid in the area, and pipes are placed at several spots beside the road," Palmer said. "But it really is not a construction site, and Mr. Swatek's body was found in what amounts to a vacant lot.
"It appeared he was walking beside the road when he came upon a stack of pipes. It looked like he chose to walk behind the pipes, rather than in front of them, and his body was found behind the pipes."
Upon initial inspection, Palmer said, it looked like the 35-year-old Swatek might have died from a heart attack. But he said the official cause of death currently is undetermined. It also is unknown why Swatek was walking beside the road.