No cause of death for 2 bodies found in Dearborn Hts. garage

Tom Greenwood, Holly Fournier and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Dearborn Heights — Murder-suicide and carbon monoxide poisoning have been ruled out as causes of death for a Dearborn Heights police officer and another man discovered Friday in a detached garage behind a house in the city, according to the Michigan State Police.

State police Lt. Mike Shaw identified the dead as Sgt. John Burdick, 44, of Dearborn Heights and James Robert McEwen, 45, who lived in the house.

"Everything else is on the table," Shaw said, referring to the cause of deaths. "The reason for that is we haven't had the autopsy results yet so we're going to wait for that to come.

"We are not looking for any suspects and this neighborhood is completely safe tonight," Shaw said Friday. "I can tell you that portion of it right now, but I can't rule out foul play until we get the autopsy results from the medical examiner's office."

The cause of death for both men remains unknown pending further investigation, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.

"Toxicology reports are being ordered for both," spokesman Ryan Bridges said Monday. "But it's about a two- to four-week turnaround."

Shaw said the men were friends and that neighbors saw them barbecuing on Sunday. He said police have not ruled out drug abuse as a cause of death.

Shaw would not say how long the men may have been in the garage.

Police and EMS arrived about 9:20 a.m. at the 8500 block of Lochdale after the bodies were discovered by a homeowner.

State police took over the investigation just after noon Friday at the request of Dearborn Heights police, Shaw said.

Shortly before 4 p.m., a police dog was taken into the backyard of the home and also briefly searched the landscaped bushes in the front yard.

Police carried six brown paper bags — three small, two medium and one large — from the rear of the home. They loaded the bags into a state police trailer parked nearby.

Next-door neighbor Pat Kondratowicz, 58, said police arrived shortly after the homeowner went into the detached garage behind the house.

"She came right back out, and she looked upset," Kondratowicz said. "Her hands were (over her mouth) in a praying position."

Moments later, several friends arrived and stood outside on their cellphones, Kondratowicz said.

"And then I heard sirens," Kondratowicz said. "I saw the EMS and a fire truck come by and they opened up the garage."

The home is one of many well-maintained, one-story brick dwellings on a street filled with large trees and manicured lawns in an area south of Joy, north of Ann Arbor Trail and between Telegraph and Beech Daly.

"I was down at the corner gas station filling up, and when I turned onto Lochdale, I saw a fire engine and a bunch of police cars," said Elaine Lajiness, who lives directly across the street from the home where the bodies were found. "Then the media showed up. The entire area is taped off and everyone is being very tight-lipped about the situation."

The narrow street was lined with police vehicles Friday, including a state police trailer.

According to Lajiness, the home being investigated is occupied by a woman, her boyfriend and her two children, ages 14 and 15.

"They're very nice people," Lajiness said. "Very quiet, and they take care of their property, like everyone in the neighborhood."

Two white chairs were on the front porch and a basketball hoop sat in the empty driveway.

"They always got together and had get-togethers with the neighbors," said neighbor Justin Slowik, 17. "The kids would always play. There was no trouble."

Shaw added Friday the officer's death was especially tragic on Peace Officers Memorial Day.

"It's disappointing that we would have one of our own found deceased today," he said. "We extend our condolences to the Dearborn Heights Police Department."

(313) 222-2023