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Man who died in parking lot tried to summon aid


An investigation into the death of a 48-year-old California man in the CVS drugstore parking lot on A1A in Indian River Shores is now closed, attributed to apparent heart failure triggered by an excess of alcohol.

When Randall Clark was found dead behind the wheel of a Jaguar around 6 p.m. on March 30 and staff from CVS tried to resuscitate him, the hazard lights were blinking on the car, said Detective Kip Benham of the Indian River Shores Public Safety Department.

It is unknown how long Clark lingered in the car with the blinkers on – an apparent effort to summon help, according to police – while patrons went in and out of the store without noticing.

It was only when a friend of the family, who had been alerted that Clark was missing and had possibly gone to CVS, recognized the license-plate frame on his car that Clark was found.

The official cause of death stated by Dr. Linda O’Neill of the Medical Examiner’s Office in a July 20 report was probable cardiac dysrhythmia due to “chronic ethanolism,” a term synonymous with chronic alcoholism.  Police said the alcohol level in his body was nearly four times the legal limit for a DUI.

Benham served as lead detective on the case.  While waiting for the coroner’s report and toxicology results, he and Officer Ken Barrett, a career law enforcement officer retired from the Vero Beach Police Department who now works on a per diem basis for the Shores, spent about 25 hours scouring grainy security camera tapes, trying to figure out what happened during the final hours of Clark’s life.

The video images were not clear or conclusive and Benham tried to get the tapes enhanced, but neither the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office nor the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office had the capability.

“I even asked NASA if they could do it,” Benham said.

In the end, all the officers had to go on were poor-quality images shot through the dingy lens of a camera just yards from the ocean, likely salt-encrusted from the sea air.

Clark’s family in The Estuary reported he left their home in his Jaguar around 10:30 a.m. “to take some conference calls,” according to statements, and tapes show he parked his car on the side of the CVS store just moments later.

The vehicle didn’t move all day, and Clark exited once, around 1:30 p.m.

A span of less than one minute on the video may explain why detectives found no alcohol containers inside the vehicle. “He got out and walked around to the back of the store; it was impossible to see if he was carrying anything, but we think he probably went back there to throw a bottle or bottles away,” Benham said.

After going behind the store, Clark “came back, walked around for 15 to 20 seconds and got back in the car.”

When Clark was found, the engine of the car had been turned off. Crime scene reports indicate his body temperature was more than 100 degrees when he arrived at the hospital.

Benham said he alerted Clark’s widow, a pediatrician in the Stockton, Calif., area, that the coroner had concluded a preliminary cause of death and the Medical Examiner made the formal notification to the family.