January 30, 2009 at 7:07 pm

No ID yet for frozen man

Official says body found in building must thaw before examining further.

DETROIT -- Who the dead man encased in ice is remains a mystery.

The Detroit News reported Thursday that a man had either fallen or was thrown down an elevator shaft in an abandoned building on the city's west side. All that could be seen of the man were his legs jutting out from the ice at the bottom of the shaft. As it happens, many people had seen the legs but failed to report it to authorities.

It took three calls to 911 over 24 hours to have the man extracted.

The man was removed from the ice late Wednesday by a crew of police officers and firefighters using chainsaws, ladders and guide ropes. The rescue crew worked with a rotting freight elevator hanging over their heads and five feet of frigid water beneath the ice.

Almost nothing is known about the man, except that he was indeed a man who wore dark sneakers, fresh white socks, a tan jacket and brown work gloves. He appeared to be about 5 feet 10 inches tall with an average build. Not even his race can be ascertained as his skin was the color of charcoal from frost bite.

"It looks like he fell in," Sgt. Kevin Hanus of the homicide squad said as the man was pulled from his icy tomb. "It's hard to tell for sure; the water and ice are several feet deep. Of course, if the medical examiner discovers foul play then that theory is shot."

An investigator at the Medical Examiner's Office said the man was so thoroughly frozen that no examination could be conducted until the victim thaws, which could be one to three days. Currently, the body sits in a side room on a gurney. He has no name. Just a case number: 09-1098.

In response to the fact that several phone calls were made to 911 over the span of two days before the man was recovered, the Detroit Police Department issued official run sheets from Jan. 27, the night the first calls were made.

According to the run sheets, officers entered the warehouse at 5:14 p.m. and left at 5:56 p.m. This reporter and a photographer were outside the warehouse at those times and saw no police cruiser. The evening was growing dark, however, and the possibility of finding a body inside the warehouse would have been difficult even in daylight conditions.

Still, no emergency responder phoned back for a more exact location of the body, nor does it appear that they followed up Wednesday morning.

Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said he was not ready to assess blame. "I'm not prepared to say the department completely dropped the ball until I get a complete report ... but clearly they should've been out there sooner," he said.

Michigan's harsh winter has resulted in at least 10 people freezing to death this season.

A 67-year-old Sumpter Township man found frozen to death in his truck this week is believed to have been living in his vehicle because he had no heat or electricity in his house, police said Thursday.

The body of Daniel Hayes Jr. was found Tuesday by metal scrappers passing by his rural home. He was sitting in the driver's seat with the door open and his legs dangling outside -- covered with about 6 inches of snow. Nearby, police found his two dogs, dead in their dog house.

Police believe Hayes may have been dead for about two weeks.

"It looks like (the dogs) may have starved or froze to death because of what happened to him," Detective Sgt. Michael Czinski said. "He was their source, and once he passed away it appears they just starved to death. It's been a pretty brutal winter."

Detroit News Staff Writer Karen Bouffard contributed to this report. You can reach Charlie LeDuff at (313) 222-2071 or charlie@detnews.com">charlie@detnews.com.