A St. Joseph, Missouri, man who had been living at a campsite along the Missouri River in that city is now known to be the victim of a drowning which led to the discovery of his body floating on Sunday down the river near Atchison.
Chief Mike Wilson of the Atchison Police Department said in an update to regional media on Wednesday afternoon that a Kansas City-area pathologist has issued a preliminary finding that Donald R. Spradling, 53, died when he drowned in the area of the river. Wilson said foul play is not suspected at this time.
The release of his identity conforms with one of the tattoos that proved to be essential in his identification, that of a large Grim Reaper visage above a cursive inscription of “Donald.” Another tattoo on Spradling’s arm features a dagger image.
Police ran down about 15 credible tips, primarily produced by the release of the tattoo information, in order to conclusively identify Spradling on Tuesday. They conducted further investigation procedures before Wilson released the name Wednesday. Wilson said the exact manner of death will now be the focus of the investigation.
The death of the man, who originally hails from south-central Missouri before he moved to the St. Joseph area two years ago, is now subject to a joint investigation between APD and the St. Joseph Police Department, with detectives from each force holding meetings in the days after APD, Atchison Fire Department and supporting first responders recovered Spradling’s body from the river not far from the City of Atchison south boat ramps.
Wilson said acquaintances of Spradling have told authorities that they last encountered him earlier this month in the area of the St. Joseph campsite where he resided, and that he frequently could be seen fishing in the river. He also had frequented an emergency shelter in St. Joseph, Wilson said.
For now, police have a key accomplishment: Bringing some measure of closure to the victim’s loved ones, who received notification before the release of Spradling’s name to the public. Wilson has considered this an overriding priority for investigators since Sunday’s discovery of the body.
“It’s always difficult to work death cases, but when you have one where family members don’t even know that perhaps a loved one has been found deceased, that adds a little bit of trauma to it for us,” he said on Monday.