Cause of death established in Vandever Case

The investigation into the death of Harrison Vandever has produced more information about the circumstances around his death. Vandever was found deceased in a floor crawl space under a building on the corner of 14thAvenue and Highway 70 on New Years Eve. Vandever was homeless and was reported missing on Christmas day and may not have been seen since December 20, 2019.

Vandever’s sister called police at approximately 6:15 New Years Eve and said that she thought she had found her brother. When police arrived the sister told them that she had found Vandever in a crawl space at the rear of the building and that she thought he was dead. She led authorities to the crawl space near some basement windows on the south side of the property.

Authorities asked the woman how she located Vandever under the building. She said that Vandever had told her about the spot and had even showed it to her in the past. She was reportedly upset while talking with the officers and said that she believed that somebody had dragged Vendever to the area. When questioned, she said that Vendever was known to come to the place often and said that there might be a few others in the homeless community that knew about it.

The crawl space opening is approximately 2 feet by 2 feet. An officer was able to look inside the crawl space and see Vandever’s feet inside the crawl space. A paramedic entered the crawl space and verified that Vendever was deceased. He was reportedly wrapped in a blanket and wearing only pants and socks.

Authorities set up crime scene tape and closed the area. Detectives arrived and tried to make contact with the owner of the property. When they were unable to make contact, they decided to clear the area and obtain a search warrant before proceeding with the investigation. While waiting for the search warrant, a detective received a call back from the owner. She gave permission for the investigation to continue and offered to provide a key to the building if authorities needed access.

Authorities and emergency personnel placed a rope under Vandever’s body and around his arms. With the help of officers pulling the rope from the outside, they carefully removed Vandever’s body from underneath the house.

Vandever’s mother was called to the scene. She and her daughter positively identified the body as Harrison Vandever. His sister told authorities that Vandever had been involved in a fight several days prior to being reported missing. She reported that she was told by other homeless people that Vandever was seen two days before Christmas by some men from the reservation.

The medical examiner examined the body and reported that there were no signs of trauma on Vandever’s body that would have caused his death. Minor injuries were found that were consistent with the statements that Vendever had been involved in a fight several days prior to the last time he was seen alive. The medical examiner concluded that Vandever died from aspirating on his vomit.