Hampden teen died from hypothermia

Posted Aug. 13, 2009, at 10:20 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — The office of the state medical examiner has cited accidental environmental hypothermia as the cause of death for a 17-year-old Hampden boy whose body was found in March in a gravel pit.

Though an autopsy was conducted this spring, the cause of Nathan Clark’s death had been withheld for nearly five months pending the results of toxicology tests, which are sent out of state to be processed.

Though a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office provided the cause of Clark’s death, she declined to say whether drugs or alcohol were considered factors in the hypothermia. The Bangor Daily News is in the process of obtaining the complete autopsy report.

Clark was reported missing by his father about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 22, after he failed to return home that night, Hampden police said at that time.

The teenager reportedly became upset that afternoon and fled into the woods from a house he was visiting in Hampden, according to initial reports. Clark last was seen around 11 that night in a gravel pit on Back Winterport Road by a medic in the LifeFlight helicopter, which was flying overhead.

After being discovered by the helicopter’s spotlight, the teen reportedly hid.

Word that the teen was missing triggered a series of searches by local police and fire personnel, state police and members of the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, as well as search dogs. Clark’s friends and family also conducted searches.

Clark’s body was found five days after he disappeared by a state game warden and a tracking dog near the gravel pit where he had been seen earlier that week.

Word of Clark’s death saddened and shocked the community. It also triggered an investigation by Hampden police and gave rise to rumors and accusations about what caused or ultimately led to his death.

It was not immediately clear Thursday whether or how the autopsy results might affect the case against a Newburgh man facing criminal charges that stem from the investigation into Clark’s death.

Michael Joseph Fortunato, 44, was summoned by the Hampden police on May 4 on two counts of aggravated furnishing Schedule W drugs, namely prescription muscle relaxers. The charges were elevated to aggravated because they alleged the furnishing of drugs to minors.

On May 26, a Penobscot County grand jury indicted Fortunato on two counts of aggravated unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs, unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs, and allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol.

The charges stemmed from a gathering on Saturday, March 21, at Fortunato’s home that Clark and an undisclosed number of other juveniles had attended, according to police. Fortunato allegedly furnished teenagers at the party with marijuana and prescription muscle relaxers.

At the time of the indictment, Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts said that the indictment against Fortunato was not directly connected with the cause of Clark’s death.

Roberts, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, said in May that additional charges could be filed once the autopsy report and results of toxicology tests were released.

Fortunato has pleaded not guilty to the charges, a Penobscot County Superior Court clerk said Thursday. A hearing on Fortunato’s motion to suppress evidence in the case is scheduled for next month.

If convicted of the aggravated furnishing charges, which are Class C felonies, Fortunato faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

dgagnon@bangordailynews.net

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