A Texas sheriff’s department released an incident report late Tuesday that revealed new details of the discovery of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s body, as well as the name of the friend who accompanied him on the hunting trip and the items found inside the ranch bedroom where the justice was found.
In response to a public records request made by The Washington Post, the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office released an incident report from the sheriff’s investigation of Scalia’s death at the Cibolo Creek Ranch on Feb. 13. The report stated that the justice’s body was found in bed with a pillowcase covering his eyes. A breathing apparatus was on the table next to the bed, but it was switched off. Scalia was lying on three pillows “stacked up to elevate his head.”
Scalia’s sheets and pillows “were still in the creased position from that day’s room service, indicating that there was no struggle involved,” the report said. The top pillowcase “appeared to have shifted at some point in the night due to the weight of his pillow, causing the pillow case to slide down and cover his eyes.”
The sheriff noted that the position of the pillow “did not seem to have inhibited Scalia’s breathing.”
About 12:14 p.m., the owner of the ranch, John Poindexter, called Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez to report the death but would not give him the name of the deceased person. There was then a disagreement between them about who should handle the death report. Poindexter told Dominguez that he wanted to report the death to the U.S. Marshals Service, but Dominguez said that it was under his jurisdiction.
“He then stated to me that this death was way beyond my authority and that it should go the Feds (USMS),” Dominguez said in the report. “I then replied it doesn’t matter who it is, it was still under my jurisdiction.”
Dominguez called U.S. Marshal Ken Roberts, and they agreed to meet at the ranch, south of Marfa, Texas. The sheriff arrived about 12:35 p.m.
When Dominguez arrived, he met Poindexter and Allen Foster, who is described in the report as “a close friend of Scalia” who had flown in with him the day before.
C. Allen Foster is a prominent Washington lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court. It was not immediately clear whether C. Allen Foster was the Scalia friend referred to in the report. A representative from his law firm said that he was traveling and that she would try to reach him.
Since Scalia’s death at the remote West Texas ranch, questions have been raised about how the death investigation was handled and why an autopsy wasn’t performed on the 79-year-old Supreme Court justice.
The Presidio County judge and the manager of the funeral home that handled Scalia’s body said Scalia’s family insisted on not having an autopsy done.
Scalia suffered from coronary artery disease, obesity, diabetes and other ailments, according to a letter from his Supreme Court doctor.
Presidio County District Attorney Rod Ponton told the Associated Press there was nothing suspicious about Scalia’s death and cited a letter from Rear Adm. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician for members of Congress and the Supreme Court. The Feb. 16 letter said Scalia’s many “significant medical conditions led to his death,” Ponton said.
Monahan listed ailments including “sleep apnea, degenerative joint disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure,” the AP said. Scalia was also a smoker, the letter said.
According to the Presidio County sheriff’s report, Poindexter, Foster and the ranch manager took Dominguez to the room where Scalia died.
“All seemed to be in order,” he wrote. Scalia was face-up on the bed, covered with sheets up to his chin. Both of his hands were “resting at his side.”
A hose for the breathing machine was found on the left side of Scalia’s bed, but was not attached to him. Scalia’s briefcase was found closed, on a recliner. On the kitchen counter, the sheriff found a “blue stretch band exercise device.” A shaving kit was on the counter in the bathroom. And his shoes were placed next to the bathtub.
Scalia’s suitcase was open, and the contents were neatly folded. A shirt was folded on the sofa. On the table to the right of his bed, the sheriff found a flashlight and a pitcher of water with a napkin folded over the top. On a table in the room, there was an “orange cap, a set of keys, a pen, a watch, and a bottle of water.”
Poindexter and Foster told the sheriff that Scalia had arrived at the ranch the day before to go hunting. Poindexter has told reporters that about 35 guests were at the ranch for the weekend together.
Poindexter told the sheriff that they “had supper and talked for a while” that evening.
Scalia “said that he was tired and was going to his room for the night,” the sheriff wrote in his report.
(C) 2016, The Washington Post · Amy Brittain, Sari Horwitz