RZECZPOSPOLITA January 28th 2002, No. 23
United States: Parents from Poland try to elucidate causes of son's death. Suicide or Murder ?
By Krzysztof Darewicz, our correspondent from Washington

For five months now, the parents of Kamil Szybinski, whose body was discovered at the foot of a cliff in a Los Angeles suburb, have been trying to elucidate their son's death.

The Police claims that the 19 year old committed suicide, but many circumstances point to homicide. This is not only the parents' opinion.

In spite of the involvement of the Polish Consul General in Los Angeles, the case came to a standstill in such a cloud of doubt. And bureaucratic mess that Kamil's body has still not been shown to his parents for identification.

A gentle young man

Kamil was a gentle and ambitious young man whose greatest passion was traveling. He succeeded in visiting over 35 countries on every continent, including Antarctica. He wrote about his impressions on the travel internet site www.dookolaswiata.pl of which he was a co-founder. He was also skateboarding Junior Champion of Poland. He was fluent in English and French. In August 2002 he arrived in Los Angeles to begin studies at Marymount College, a private Catholic school. On September 17th 2002 before noon, a passerby found his body at the foot of a cliff overlooking the sea. The coroner and the police who were called at the scene immediately assumed it was suicide caused by "homesickness". This thesis supposedly rests upon inscriptions found in Kamil's diary, ("I'm a loser", "screwed-up life"), the lack of signs of a struggle on Kamil's clothes and body, the testimony of one of Kamil's colleagues and the school management, as well as the fact that Kamil complained to the school physician about difficulties with concentration. Nevertheless, Kamil's parents who came from Poland to take possession of their son's body grew increasingly doubtful about such an interpretation of their son's death.

The coroner had no right

The Coroner's Office refused to let the parents officially identify their son's body claiming, at first, that the school vice-principal had already done so, and later, that there were no conditions for doing so at the morgue. Kamil's parents still have not been given their son's clothes, nor have they been given access to the testimony of witnesses questioned by the coroner and the police, although parents have a legal right to view such testimony. It is only three weeks ago that the Coroner's Office gave a copy of the autopsy report from September 20th, claiming that this is how long it waited for the results of the toxicology tests (they did not reveal any traces of alcohol or drugs). This autopsy report reveals, even to a complete layman, exceptional carelessness on the part of the coroner conducting the autopsy. For example, first he/she states that the body was clothed, but later that he/she saw no clothing; that the deceased was circumcised; that the front teeth were chipped, but at the same time, that there was no lesions on the face; that no evidence was collected from the location where Kamil was found, but at the same time, that "inscriptions" were found; etc. The report concludes that Kamil committed suicide, although by California law, the coroner can not rule out homicide in such cases, even if there is no evidence pointing in that direction. "He did not have a bullet in his head afetr all and my opinion is final" said Ms Pamela Eacker, whon conducted the autopsy, to our correspondent. Her opinion rules out the possibility of the police continuing the enquiry.

Facts established by the parents and a detective

Facts established by the parents and a private detective they hired raise serious doubts as to the suicide thesis. Kamil was seen in the vicinity of the school as late as 45 minutes prior to his death (the coroner set the hour of his death at 10:00 AM, local time). This is a distance of 7 km from the cliff. How could he have covered such a distance so quickly not having a car? The road leading to the cliff is unusually tortuous and hilly and no buses run there. Kamil's body were found at a distance of 15 meters from the base of the cliff, which is 30 meters high. If the police's thesis, holding that Kamil jumped from the cliff were true, Kamil would have had to - as can be easily calculated - run at a speed of about 20 km/h, and carrying a 4 kg knapsack at that.

The passerby who found the body claims that he saw a helicopter circling above the site. This has been also established beyond any doubt that immediately following Kamil's death, but before the arrival of the police, someone tried to call Kamil's father from the school dormitory by dialing a number only Kamil knew. Kamil's colleagues and a couple of psychologists whom he befriended and at whose home he spent every weekend did not confirm that Kamil had been depressive. And finally, it can't be denied that a year ago two other students of the same school, also foreigners, were shot in circumstances that have not been elucidated to this day. Given this, it is hardly surprising that a private school, out of concern for its reputation, would at any cost strive to avoid yet another scandal and would try to convince the police of the suicide of a "homesick" student from Poland. In this context, it is worthwhile to remember that in American colleges older students very often abuse younger ones, and the area where Marymount College is located is known for the activities of drug gangs.

Many unanswered questions

The number of unanswered questions is so large that even the Consul Gzeneral of Poland in Los Angeles, who is bound, ex officio, to the utmost impartiality, doubts the suicide thesis. "Certain circumstances indicate that Kamil's death may not have been a suicide" said Dariusz Dobrowolski, Polish Consul to our correspondent. The Consulate is trying to give Kamil's parents all possible legal assistance, but despite this, they have to surmount the majority of the bureaucratic barriers they encounter in a foreign country on their own. "The police and the Coroner's Office treat me as an intruder. All they are interested in is when my visa will expire and I will, at last, leave" claims Kamil's father. At present he is trying to organize a new autopsy performed by an independent expert and to get the police to reopen the case. This is unusually difficult to do in America without filing a case in court and without the assistance of a lawyer. And this, in turn, entails enormous costs, which Kamil's parents simply can't cover.

Kamil Szybinski's parents have agreed to disclose their son's last name. More information about the case is available at: www.kamil.info