Details emerge of man found dead in portable toilet

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 6, 2014


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A 65-year-old man who once attended West Point and Wayne State University spent his final days trying to stay out of the elements in a portable toilet at the Nine Mile Boat Ramp.

St. Clair Shores Police Detective Margaret Eidt said the department has now identified and reached relatives of 65-year-old Gary Roger Szarek, who formerly resided on Elford Court in Grosse Pointe Woods before the home was sold in 2010 for back taxes.

Through her investigation, Eidt said they were able to reach relatives of Szarek, who told her that he had graduated from West Point, the United States Military Academy, and attended Wayne State before working in the computer department of an unnamed university in the 1980s. Sometime at the end of that decade, Eidt said, “he was passed over for a promotion and from there, he snapped and quit his job.”

After that, relatives told Eidt, Szarek became a recluse.

The person who purchased the Grosse Pointe Woods home that had belonged to Szarek’s family told police that “the house was full of garbage, there was a hole in the roof and, amongst all the garbage, was a pristinely made bed,” Eidt said.

“They knew that he was sneaking in and out of the home, and in 2011, they ended up having to call the police to have him removed from the house. From that point on, he took to the streets and we knew that he was residing mostly along the wall that goes between Fishbone’s parking lot and Shore Club.”

Eidt said a resident of Shore Club told her he used to offer Szarek clothing and food, and told him around October or November of 2013 to seek shelter for the winter. It’s at that point that police believe he took up residence in the portable toilet at the Nine Mile Boat Ramp. Eidt said American Sanitation, the owner of the portable toilet, told her it is very common for the homeless to seek shelter in their facilities and so they try to check them throughout the winter; they could not do so because the ramp had been locked.

“Talking with other family members, they said he was highly intelligent, good looking and also, unfortunately, he did suffer from some mental illness,” Eidt said. “According to the cousins, they had not seen or heard from him for probably 20-30 years. They were still very devastated by the news of his passing.”

An autopsy concluded that Szarek died of hypothermia, that he was not a smoker or alcoholic, and he did not abuse drugs, she said. In his possession at the time, he had $146, $26 in bottle return slips, Mega Millions lottery tickets, and a driver’s license found by the sanitation company in a brown wallet that was buried in the ankle-deep trash in the portable toilet.

“He really did not want to interact with anybody,” Eidt said she learned from witnesses. “If anybody would challenge him on going and staying at MCREST … he would tell people that he has enough money to live on and he did not need help.”