The death of 32-year-old homeless man who was discovered dead inside an abandoned home in Wilmington has been ruled as an accident.
Investigators have re-classified the homicide investigation into the death of 32-year-old Kevin Billups, after a medical examiner’s report ruled the case an accidental death, according to Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, who spoke briefly about the case last week.
The death investigation opened on Jan. 29, when Billups–a homeless man from Huntington, West Virginia–was discovered dead inside an abandoned home in the 4100 block of Princess Place Drive, police spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay said. He was found lying face down on the floor of the home by a man who was looking after the property.
According to Wilmington Police Department Detective D.M. Timken, the case was treated as a homicide because of the limited information detectives had on Billups at the start of the investigation and the nature of his injuries.
According to the autopsy report, Billups was initially listed as a “John Doe.” He was later identified through fingerprint analysis, Timken said. His last known address in Wilmington area was the Good Shepherd Center, 811 Martin St., which is a homeless shelter in the city.
“Initially, what we had to go on at the time is what we could see. We knew he had a head injury. The question then became whether or not that was something—the head injury—was a result of something accidental or it was something intentional,” Timken said.
Timken said the confirmation came when the police department received the medical examiner’s full autopsy report earlier this month.
The report lists Billups’ death as an accident caused by blood loss and closed head injuries due to blunt and sharp force injuries to the head and neck, as well as impairment.
The medical examiner’s report, paired with an apparent lack of evidence for a struggle or altercation inside the home, ultimately confirmed Billups had not been intentionally killed, Timken said. Investigators did look into the possibility of an altercation outside the home, but that was ruled out as well, he added.
“We just weren’t finding any circumstances which told us he was in some kind of an altercation that would have resulted in the loss of his life,” Timken said.
There were things in the home that led detectives to believe that Billups had gone inside the home to get ready for bed. Inside the living room of the home, Billups’ shoes were taken off and neatly paired side-by-side in front of the couch with his socks tucked inside, Timken said. Billups had also taken off his jacket.
According to the medical examiner’s report, Billups fell or passed out onto a pile of planks with protruding nails while he was preparing to sleep on the couch.
But blood work and the toxicology report also a big factor in the case, Timken said. Billups had a blood alcohol content of .29, according to the toxicology report.
“At a .29, certain processes start going on in the body. You get to a point where you start looking at impaired body functions and alcohol poisoning,” Timken said. “He’s definitely not the first one to fall, bang their head and die. Because you have so much alcohol in your system, the blood is pumping and you bleed a lot…it could have caused some excess bleeding for him.”
The re-classification of Billups’ case brings the total number of homicide investigations opened in 2015 down to seven. When asked about the frequency of a second ruling in a homicide investigation, Timken said, “It’s not a regular occurrence.”
Like in Billups’ case, autopsy reports and forensic investigations can play a big role in fully determining case classifications, Timken said. Medical examiners had estimated Billups was in the home for about 10 days before he was found. The nature of the injuries were even more pronounced due to rodents and decomposition.
“I’d say we do the best we can when we’re initially on scene to try to make a determination. This is one of those cases where…we didn’t have enough information at the time to do that,” Timken said.
Billups’ mother a has been notified about the re-classification, but Timken said he will be speaking with her further about the case. According to the autopsy report, Billups last had contact with his mother in December 2014.
“She understands, but still has questions,” Timken said.
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Christina Haley is a crime and courts reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.