Man chooses to poison himself rather than return to prison for crimes committed
Former college professor Robert Lindsay, 51, began sweating profusely and foaming at the mouth while he sat in the back seat of a Golden patrol car.
What caused his death remained a mystery for nearly a month. The Jefferson County coroner's office didn't even know the right test to run until Lindsay's brother, Greg, revealed he had vowed to take cyanide before going back to jail.
Lindsay's suicide proved traumatic to police officers who witnessed his death and feared possible career repercussions. His case was so bizarre it became a cautionary teaching lesson for U.S. marshals as far away as Maryland.
"He took the same drug the Nazis did to kill themselves," said Lindsay's father, William, of Dallas. "He vowed he would never go back to prison. Committing suicide was probably him saying I'm getting away with this and you can't do a thing about it."
Cyanide poisoning has long been an escape solution for desperate men. Adolf Hitler took a cyanide pill before shooting himself to death in 1945. In June 2012, Michael Marin, 53, took cyanide after a jury found him guilty of burning down his $3.5 million Phoenix mansion.
Lindsay had shown sparks of brilliance, but too often it was for nefarious reasons, his father said. He earned advanced degrees at Texas A&M, before teaching college courses at an affiliate Texas state college, William Lindsay said. But his achievements were marred by drug abuse, his father said. The professor was fired and moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he got a job with the U.S. Postal Service.
In September 1997, Lindsay molested a girl and was sentenced to five years in prison and life on parole. He jumped parole in April 2006.
In 2007, Detective Michael Parker and Sgt. John Reinikka of Montgomery County, Md., found Lindsay using the alias Robert Olson in Silver Spring. When Parker called him by his real name, Lindsay tried to bolt.
"He was kicking and punching and yelling, 'I can't go back!' " Reinikka said. Reinikka's little finger was broken and Lindsay bit Parker's right thumb, drawing blood, while they arrested him.
Upon his release in 2012, he failed to register as a sex offender and fled to Colorado. The HIV-positive child molester made Maryland's top-10 fugitive list, said Matt Burke, of the U.S. Marshals Service in Maryland.
After three years on the run, federal marshals tracked him down to Gunslinger paint shop in Golden on July 28. Lindsay was paged over an intercom. He climbed out a second-story window, Burke said. By chance, Lindsay ran into Golden police officers on a training exercise, Burke said.
"He didn't say, 'Hey, I just took something that may kill me,' " Burke said.
At first, doctors thought Lindsay might have had a heart attack, William Lindsay said.
His death was disconcerting to police officers who arrested him, in part because of intense public scrutiny when people die while in custody, said Capt. Joe Harvey of the Golden Police Department.
Dan Pruett, chief deputy coroner for Jefferson County, said the county doesn't routinely screen for cyanide poisoning during toxicology testing. The autopsy originally didn't determine a cause of death, according to police records. Much like carbon monoxide poisoning, cyanide blocks oxygenation, Pruett said.
A cyanide screening was ordered after Greg Lindsay called from Texas on Aug. 25. During the call, he said he didn't know if it was relevant but his brother often boasted about taking cyanide to avoid going back to prison, Pruett said.
When the cyanide test was done in September, it confirmed a lethal concentration of cyanide in Lindsay's body. Investigators used metal detectors to find a discarded metal container in the parking lot of Gunslinger's, according to police records.
There were several theories about why Lindsay killed himself and used cyanide to do so.
His father said he had been attacked in prison and that may have affected his decision. But he believes Arizona's tough sex offender rules including lifetime parole was the biggest reason.
"I guess he just got tired of being jacked around by the judicial system," William Lindsay said.
Parker, who underwent medical treatments for possible HIV infection for months after Lindsay bit him, said Lindsay had offered another possible clue about his motive to kill himself.
"He was telling me, 'I'm not going back to jail because it's a death sentence,' " Parker said. He explained that if he went to jail he wouldn't get the treatment he needed and would certainly die of AIDS, he said.
Lewis Nelson, a professor of toxicology and emergency medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, said cyanide offers a quick and nearly certain death. It is available online, and people can have it delivered by mail, he added.
An investigation cleared officers who arrested Lindsay of any wrongdoing, Harvey said.
The U.S. Marshals' Service now uses Lindsay's case as a training exercise for marshals who might otherwise underestimate the danger a fugitive poses, Burke said.
He explains that Lindsay wasn't facing a lengthy prison term for failure to register as a sex offender.
"This isn't armed robbery," he said. "It goes to show that you don't know what's going on in that guy's life. It's an example of what lengths someone is willing to go when they don't want to go back to jail." ..Source.. by Kirk Mitchell