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Death ruled accidental after body of missing man found in Macomb Community College vent

CBS News Detroit Digital Brief for Dec. 1, 2023
CBS News Detroit Digital Brief for Dec. 1, 2023 03:45

(CBS DETROIT) - The death of a Clinton Township man whose body was found in a ventilation system at Macomb Community College has been ruled accidental, authorities said Thursday. 

Jason Anthony Thompson, 36, was found in a ventilation system at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts facility on Sunday, Nov. 26, as authorities were investigating a foul odor in the building. 

His family reported him missing to the Sterling Heights Police Department on Nov.1 after they hadn't seen or heard from him since Oct. 25. 

According to the Macomb College Police Department, Thompson told his family he was running from the police on campus and had gotten onto the roof of the building. His family believed he had been on the theater's roof and could have been hiding in the ventilation system. Police say law enforcement officials were not actively pursuing Thompson.

Macomb College police were notified that Thompson was a fugitive with five warrants for his arrest. On Nov. 7, Sterling Heights police asked them to check the performing arts center's roof to see if a person had entered the ventilation system.

An officer and staff went to the highest vantage point on the roof and reported no evidence of access, anyone being up there, remains or any odor. 

Then, on Nov. 17, Sterling Heights police reached out to Macomb College police again, this time asking them to review video footage of the area outside the performing arts facility, but there is no camera coverage around that area. 

On Nov. 26, officers on duty at the facility smelled an odor coming from part of the building and contacted their supervisor and Macomb College Police Chief William Leavens. 

Officers and school staff continued to search for the source of the odor and hours later discovered it was coming from a mechanical room not available to public access.

According to Macomb College police, the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad was called to assist, and they used X-ray equipment and a small camera to determine that there was an inverted body in the vent. 

Clinton Township police, fire and the medical examiner were on the scene to remove the body.

"Once entering the system from the roof, he kept breaking through barriers and burrowing deeper into the HVAC system, traversing a great distance through the duct work across the entire mechanical room," said Macomb College police. "Ultimately, he came to a duct that was vertical in a downward direction, which he entered head first, getting stuck when encountering a narrowed section. At this point, he was in an inverted position that he couldn't recover from - the space would not have allowed him to move, kick or use his arms in any way."

Authorities say he died from suffocation and his death was ruled accidental.

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