Theodore Hilk - Death Investigation Analysis, Part-1

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Theodore Hilk was 30 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days old when he died in his apartment unit on the 7th floor of 240 E. Illinois St.

For this file analysis to be performed ethically and responsibly, this reporter reviewed all available local news media reports, reviewed the obituary for Theodore Hilk, reviewed the tributes left in the open by people who knew Mr. Hilk on said obituary, performed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Chicago Police Department and obtained the full investigative files from them pertaining to their investigation of the death of Theodore Hilk. This reporter also spoke with the Cook County Medical Examiner's Spokesperson. An e-mail to Tom Ahern, the Chicago Police Department's Deputy Director of News Affairs and Communications asking questions about how this incident was classified, and why it was given a certain classification went unanswered.  

This is the first time the public has been able to see the response and investigation records for themselves. 

Theodore Hilk - The Person

When performing a file analysis of this sort, it is important that the public get to see the person first, to get a sense of Theodore as he was known in life prior to his sudden and tragic death. 

The City of Chicago, and the local corporate major news media sensationalized the death of Mr. Hilk who, like many bright and successful people before him, struggled with all of those things that make each of us a human being.

Theodore came to Chicago after graduating from M.I.T.  Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics, per his obituary. 

The obituary also states "He enjoyed his years in Cambridge being involved in oncology research as well as his job with a prestigious Boston investment firm. He was a willing accomplice in the famous April 2010 “Upside Down Lounge” hack at the school. Ted was a member of Traders at MIT, an undergraduate quantitative finance club. He was a coach and fund raiser for the MIT trading team that went on to win the Rotman’s International Trading Competition in 2011. His summers were dedicated to travel and internships with various financial companies in Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago and Boston.

After graduation, Ted moved to Chicago and began his career in finance. He left that arena and developed a consulting business, allowing him to work with many new ventures as well as develop his own concepts."

Theodore's family states further in the obituary that he is noted to have had "a witty sense of humor" and "would do anything for those around him. He was generous and kind; he loved fiercely." The family further says of him, "he was the first to say, “give me a moment to research” and would then come back with abundant details, relevant options, and applicable solutions."

A person identifying themself as "Sherry Wu", who states that she knew Theodore Hilk from his time at M.I.T., left behind a moving tribute. 

 
Another person who knew Theodore Hilk from M.I.T., identifying themself as Fangfei Shen, left behind a tribute that recalled a sharing of music interests between the two of them. 

Theodore Hilk - photo provided by Fangfei Shen

The tributes to Mr. Hilk at the Andersen Morgan Funeral Home site were numerous. Out of those many tributes, there were two more tributes that spoke loudly about who he was in life.

Michael Plasmeier described Theodore Hilk as one of his best friends at M.I.T., and stated, "Ted was an expert not just at math and sciences, but philosophy and humanity. Ted opened my eyes to thinking critically about the world and provided a perspective I could not hear anywhere else, on a deep range of topics."

Michael Plasmeier tribute left at Andersen Morgan Funeral Home website

Theodore's 3rd Grade Teacher, Stacy Miller spoke as well, saying "his legacy will live on"

Family Concern For Theodore, Initial Response and Initial Investigation at 240 E. Illinois St. 

This is a Chicago Fire and Chicago Police Department joint response consisting of two separate, but related CPD investigations documented under two separate, but associated RD and Event Numbers: JE-177914 with Event#2108215540 and JE-178914 with Event# 2108309407. 

This particular CPD investigation consists of a response and initial investigation by the 018th District under the department's Bureau of Patrol which was then handed to the Bureau of Detectives and assigned to the Area-3 Detective Division as a death investigation.  

Bureau of Detectives Field Group "A" -Central Investigations Division - Arson Section, Bureau of Detectives Field Group "B" - Forensic Services Division, and Special Functions Group - Bomb Squad, all handled the hazardous materials investigation in coordination with the Area-3 Violent Crimes/Homicide Unit. 

All death investigations performed by the Chicago Police Department are carried-out by the responsible area Detective Division Violent Crimes/Homicide Unit.

The following summary of events on 23 March 2021 is pieced together from a combination of the Area-3 death investigation and Arson Section investigation reports in exact chronological order.  

This response and resulting investigation occurred when the parents of Theodore Hilk, Wayne and Lisa (Fischer) Hilk, suddenly lost contact with Theodore Hilk after speaking with him on 28 February 2021.

Wayne and Lisa Hilk became concerned for Theodore after this sudden loss of contact, and they decided to drive to Chicago to check on him. Upon their arrival in Chicago, Wayne Hilk and Lisa (Fischer) Hilk obtained a room at the Embassy Suites Hotel, then Lisa immediately went to Theodore's apartment unit at 240 E. Illinois St just across from the hotel. 

Lisa (Fischer) Hilk then made contact in the lobby with the Concierge between 6:15 and 6:30PM, and explained who she was, why she was there, and the circumstances surrounding her presence. The Concierge cooperated with Lisa (Fischer) Hilk, and allowed her to go to the 7th floor where her son was living. Mrs. Hilk then returned to the Embassy Suites Hotel and made contact with her husband, saying she was unable to make contact with Theodore. Mrs. Hilk stated to her husband that it sounded like the shower was running, and that she believed Theodore was likely showering. 

The Concierge allowed Mrs, Hilk to stay in the building between the lobby and the hallway in-front of her son's apartment unit for several hours, however, according to Area-3 Detective Chris Bane's report, the couple returned to Theodore's apartment around 10:30PM and once again heard the shower running. Mr and Mrs. Hilk became concerned and obtained the key to Theodore's apartment from the Doorman of the building, but were unable to get the door open. 

Mr and Mrs. Hilk then summoned the Chicago Fire Dept via 911, and CFD Truck Company #6 arrived on-scene. Truck Company 6 made contact with the Hilks and determined that they had enough reason to be concerned for Theodore's safety and life that forced entry was warranted. Truck 6 then made forced entry. Members of Truck 6 discovered Theodore Hilk deceased, and immediately informed Wayne and Lisa Hilk of their findings. Members of Truck 6 indeed found that the shower water in the unit had been running at the time of their forced entry. 

CPD Beat 1833 was also assigned this investigation at 11:40PM. The time period between 10:30PM and the time CFD Truck 6 and CPD Beat 1833 were assigned is unaccounted for in the Area-3 death investigation, and in the Arson Section investigation.

The below video is from the body worn camera assigned to CPD Officer Joel Gonzalez - Star# 16282 - Beat 1833, and shows the officers entering the building after making contact with CFD Truck Company 6, and making their way up to Theodore Hilk's residence where they meet with members of Truck 6, and begin their investigation. The conditions found in the apartment unit were consistent with hoarding. 

Viewer discretion is advised 

This footage may be difficult and upsetting to some 

The Chicago Police Department released three body cams from responding officers. That footage will follow as appropriate. 

The report completed by Detective Bane says the officers exited the unit and notified their supervisory personnel, the video shows that they weren't in a hurry to notify those two members of their chain-of-command, and that they actually stayed in the unit until Officer Davis told Radomski "he doesn't really want us in here". 

Report snippet authored by Area-3 Detective Bane - Star# 21793

As noted by Detective Bane of the Area-3 Detective Division in the above file snippet, when CFD and CPD found Theodore Hilk, he was in an advanced state of decomposition. This would mean he had been deceased for at least several days or longer. 

The Chicago Tribune article of 25 March 2021 summarizes some of what was found within the Area-3 death investigation and Arson Section investigation files. 

Apartment Unit Conditions

Upon arrival of Chicago Fire Dept and Chicago Police personnel, the apartment unit was in a state of severe hoarding. 

Per the American Psychiatric Association (quotemarks omitted),

People with hoarding disorder have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save the items. Attempts to part with possessions create considerable distress and lead to decisions to save them. The resulting clutter disrupts the ability to use living spaces (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors typically acquire possessions in an organized, intentional, and targeted fashion. Once acquired, the items are removed from normal usage, but are subject to being organizing, admired, and displayed to others. Acquisition of objects in people who hoard is largely impulsive, with little active planning, and triggered by the sight of an object that could be owned. Objects acquired by people with hoarding lack a consistent theme, whereas those of collectors are narrowly focused on a particular topic. In contrast to the organization and display of possessions seen in collecting, disorganized clutter is a hallmark of hoarding disorder.

The overall prevalence of hoarding disorder is approximately 2.6%, with higher rates for people over 60 years old and people with other psychiatric diagnoses, especially anxiety and depression. The prevalence and features of hoarding appear to be similar across countries and cultures. The bulk of evidence suggests that hoarding occurs with equal frequency in men and women. Hoarding behavior begins relatively early in life and increases in severity with each decade.

There is no information at this time indicating one way or another if Theodore Hilk was ever diagnosed with Hoarding Disorder by a qualified medical physician. The above information from the American Psychiatric Association is general in nature only, and intended only to give basic expert insight into hoarding.   

Cook County Medical Examiner's Findings

The Cook County Medical Examiner assigned this case ME# 2021-03253. 
The findings were that the manner of death is accidental, and the cause was Lidocaine and MEGx (Monoethylglycinexylidide) poisoning. 

  

Monoethylglycinexylidide is listed by the U.S. National Institute of Health's National Library of Medicine - National Center For Biotechnology Information as a metabolite of Lidocaine, and also an acute toxin.

Chicago-One News spoke with Cook County Medical Examiner Spokesperson Natalia Derevyanny by e-mail and telephone, the telephone call took place on 27 October 2021. During that telephone call, Natalia stated that the Medical Examiner has no information about how long Hilk was deceased before being found, could not say how or when the Lidocaine was ingested, and could not say whether or not Hilk was prescribed the Lidocaine because such information does not factor into the cause and manner of death.   

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