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Garza investigation: three months later

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The mother of the late Nicholas Garza has hired a forensics specialist to provide a second opinion on the circumstances surrounding her son’s death, which state and local authorities are currently calling accidental.

It was May 27 that local officials found the remains of Nicholas Garza, a 19-year-old freshman at Middlebury College, near the base of the Otter Creek Falls. Garza had been missing since the evening of Feb. 5, when he was last seen on campus.

Middlebury police continue to amass information in their investigation of Garza’s death, including toxicology reports and information from the office of the state’s chief medical examiner. But information, to date, continues to lead authorities to the conclusion that Garza had consumed alcohol on a cold Feb. 5 and then accidentally fell into the frigid Otter Creek.

“There is absolutely no indication of foul play,” said Addison County State’s Attorney John Quinn. “I think we had a Middlebury College student who drank alcohol and probably wandered down the wrong path and fell into the river.”

Quinn said he has reviewed investigators’ reports in the case and believes “every possible lead was run down and every person rumored to have known something about (the case) was spoken to.”

Quinn said he would, if given the opportunity, review any material that may be uncovered by an investigator recently hired by the Garza family to furnish a second opinion about the circumstances surrounding Nicholas’s death.

That investigator, according to Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley, is Dr. Michael Baden, who is a medical doctor and forensic pathologist. He is also an author and former chief medical examiner for the state of New York.

Natalie Garza, Nicholas’s mother, could not be reached for comment as the Addison Independent went to press.

Hanley said he hopes to have his investigation completely wrapped up within a month. Work has gone more slowly, recently, due to the absence of a lead investigator in the case who has been out of work this summer due to an injury sustained in the line of duty, according to Hanley.

“At this point, it’s fairly safe to say the investigation is coming to a close with no evidence of criminal conduct or that there was a third party involved,” Hanley said. “We have yet to do a final summation or final review of the case.”

Nick Garza may be gone, but he is not forgotten, as Middlebury College classes resume for the fall semester.

“The Middlebury College community still mourns the loss of Nick Garza, and our thoughts are with his family,” said Middlebury College spokesperson Sarah Ray.

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