West Lebanon riverbank victim ID'd as White River Junction man

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Eric Francis

Police are unable to locate next of kin

WEST LEBANON - Efforts to identify the dead man who was discovered first thing Wednesday morning by birdwatchers on the New Hampshire side next to the Bridge Street Bridge which links West Lebanon and White River Junction were finally successful on Friday.

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Authorities have tried for over 24 hours to locate next of kin for the victim but have been unable to do so and on Saturday morning Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello authorized the release of the identification to the public.

The male victim has been positively identified as Robert William Cook, age 47, of White River Junction, VT and previously of Phoenix, Arizona, Chief Mello explained in a press release, noting that attempts to locate family of Mr. Cook have been unsuccessful and adding that anyone with information on immediate family is asked to contact the Lebanon Police Department.

"Lebanon Police Patrol and Detective Units have spent several days investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident. Information gleaned during this investigation has shifted the focus of this investigation to an apparent suicide, as a result of jumping from the Route 4 Bridge, pending results of an autopsy completed on Friday," the release explained.

Police agencies as far away as Burlington, Vermont had been circulating photos of the victim amongst their detectives but no one recognized him, Lebanon Lieutenant Rich Smolenski explained early Wednesday evening.

"This is really bizarre because there are only so many transient people in the area," Smolensk noted at the time.  "We've been beating the bushes and so far we haven't had any luck trying to figure out who this is."

Lebanon Police Lieutenant Rich Smolenski looks over the scene late Wednesday morning

Police on both sides of the Connecticut River canvassed homeless shelters and other service agencies to no avail.

Smolenski said there was no identification with the body and efforts to obtain fingerprints had to await the completion of an autopsy at the chief medical examiner's office in Concord.

Lebanon Police Officers Brett Quillia and Eric Hunter secure the bridge above the investigation

Police had no specific reason to suspect foul play but the lieutenant said detectives and technicians spent the morning processing the section of the riverbank behind Stateline Sports as though it were a crime scene "in case something comes up later" during the autopsy.

Police and firefighters carried the body to a waiting hearse shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday

Based on his appearance, police estimated the victim's age at forty or more years.  He was wearing jeans, a plaid shirt over a blue hoody and hiking boots but did not appear to have any other possessions with him.  

Investigators collect forensic samples for analysis at the crime lab

Police said the body could have landed at the base of the rocky embankment near the northeast corner of the bridge from either the bridge deck itself or perhaps from the access road that twists down from the bridge behind Stateline Sports to the river's edge and they were hoping the autopsy could shed some light on what might have occurred. 

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