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Ryan Died Of Accidental, Natural Causes

By Staff | Jan 7, 2009

The area between Go Mart and the Steelton Car Wash in New Martinsville remained taped off as a crime scene Tuesday afternoon. This was the area where the body of Michael R. Ryan II was found Jan. 4. Initially treated as a homicide, officials say all preliminary reports point to an accidental and natural death. (Photo by Bill Abraham)

The death of Michael R. Ryan II, 41, of New Martinsville, has been preliminarily ruled as accidental and natural.

Ryan’s body was found Jan. 4 in a creek between Go Mart and Steelton Car Wash in New Martinsville. His family reported him missing to the New Martinsville Police Department on Jan. 2 at 9:43 p.m. The last time his family had seen him was Dec. 23, but non-family had reported seeing Ryan on Dec. 30. NMPD Chief Tim Cecil said Ryan was wearing different clothes than witnesses had seem him in on the Dec. 30, the last known sighting of Ryan.

NMPD Sgt. Dave Byers, a member of the Tyler County Search and Rescue Team, initiated a search of the area at approximately noon on Jan. 4. Just a short time later, Zip, a cadaver dog from Steel Valley Search Dogs of Shadyside, located Ryan’s body. The department’s two police dogs were not involved in the search as they are trained to locate drugs.

NMPD Detective Donnie Harris said the initial autopsy report he received from the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s office in Morgantown showed the causes of death to be three-fold: alcohol seizure, heart disease, and hypothermia.

“Basically what probably happened is when he went down there he had the seizure which caused the heart attack,” explained Harris. Ryan lived on Mary Street near the Ohio River and he was found on the eastern end of Mary Street.

The department had been treating the incident as a homicide, a precaution always taken before it can be ruled otherwise.

Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught explained normal procedure, “Our first priority whenever we find a body is to identify the body, notify the next of kin, and then determine the cause of death. We treat the scene as though it is a potential homicide until we are able to rule that out.”

Earlier Harris had reported that the “condition of the scene looked suspicious.” He elaborated Tuesday that Ryan was barefooted and had injuries to his head and to his hand.

On Tuesday the detective recovered Ryan’s shoes and socks that were still at the scene. Also, he noted, “We were able to determine that (the injuries to his body) occurred from a small fight he was in and a seizure he had had one other time. We were able to explain all the injuries that he had.”

Haught said that while everything points to a natural or accidental death, officials will continue to wait on reports like toxicology until they make a final determination.

When the final report is in hand, Haught and Harris will sit down and review the medical examiner’s report, then make a decision as to whether any further investigation is needed. “The whole process for that takes some time,” said Haught. “At this point and time we do not believe it was a homicide. I don’t believe that the community or that neighborhood is at any risk.

“Donnie, I think, has done and does do a very good job in his investigations,” praised Haught.

If anyone had seen Ryan since Dec. 30 or knows any information that would add to the investigation, they are encouraged to call the NMPD at 455-9100.