Oscar Wilde once began an essay with the words: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Wilde’s maxim suggests that our actions depict things we see in art more so than art depicting things we see in life.
People spend their youth looking for “storybook romances.” Just about every technological advancement was predicted in some form or fashion by a science-fiction novel years ago. And there’s no limit to the amount of revolutionary acts that were inspired by someone’s literature. When investigators looked into one particular case, they would find the culprit had once again proved Wilde’s maxim to be true…
Alan was a 71-year-old man who lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who by all accounts was living a great life. Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, he had plenty of money from a family flooring business. And though he’d recently spent five years working as a developer for an LED lighting company, he was now semi-retired.
Alan’s social life was going well, too. He was married to a woman named Linda — a second marriage for both of them — who described him as “the love of her life.” He seemed equally devoted to her and promised she “would always be taken care of.”
Toward the end of January in 2018, Linda and Alan traveled north together to Boston where they planned to visit with Linda’s daughter for a couple of weeks. Spending time with her was enjoyable as always. But after a week, Alan grew tired of the cold and decided he would return to Florida early.
Time for Friends
Once back in the beautiful Florida weather, Alan spent the time away from his wife by hanging out with his friends. That mostly meant meeting them in the morning for coffee at a local shop or getting lunch or dinner later in the day.
And there was never a shortage of friends for him to spend his time with. One friend described Alan as “a fun guy that everybody wanted to be around.” An avid golfer, Alan had scheduled a tee time as part of a foursome on January 25th. But he never showed up for that tee time.
At first, his friends thought he was just running late. But as the minutes went by and they were unable to get a hold of Alan on his home or mobile phones, they started to worry. As they would later find out, their concerns were all too valid…
Earlier that morning around 7 am, a man was out walking his dog when he came across what looked like a man lying down in the middle of a field. When he got closer, he saw a circle of blood on the man’s shirt around what looked like a bullet hole. That man was Alan Abrahamson.
Looks Like Murder
When police showed up on the scene, they had every reason to believe that Alan had been murdered, though there was little evidence to explain why. There was nothing to indicate a struggle or that he’d been mugged. Later investigation would show that he’d had no enemies. There was only one strange thing to suggest what had happened…
Investigators noticed a “linear blood transfer pattern on [Alan] Abrahamson’s sweatshirt.” In other words, it looked like something about the width of a piece of thread had passed through the blood on the outside of his shirt. There was also a curious object — a small pair of scissors — found near his body.
One of the detectives working on the case couldn’t get that strange quirk of the crime scene out of his head. Several days later, a far-fetched idea had wormed its way into his brain and as unlikely as it seemed, he couldn’t find his way to dismissing it…
The most obvious fact of the case was that Alan had been killed by someone else but the detectives theory directly contradicted that. What if, he proposed, Alan’s death had been a suicide staged to appear like a murder?
It was the string-like pattern in the blood that had started it all. The theory was that the string had been attached to a balloon that was tied to a gun Alan had used to shoot himself. After the shot, the balloon carried the gun away but not before dragging through the blood stain forming around the gunshot wound…
If this sounds to you like something out of a procedural TV crime show, that’s because it is. Investigators discovered a 2003 episode of the show “CSI” where someone had used a gun tied to a weather balloon to make a suicide appear to be a murder.
It’s Been Done Before
Not only was the idea out there, it had apparently been tried before. In 2008, a New Mexico man tried to copy the CSI plot, which was only uncovered because the balloon — with the pistol still attached — got caught in a nearby cactus…
So the outlandish idea was now a possible but unlikely explanation for Alan’s death. However, police would soon uncover evidence that made it appear more and more that this balloon-ruse suicide was what actually happened. A further investigation of the crime scene found “pieces of white string/twine with knots tied and some colored rubber bands” more than 40 yards away from where the body was found.
No Reason for It
Detectives would find similar string and rubber bands in a draw at Alan’s home. They also found that Alan had purchased two weather balloons, one in October and another on Christmas Day. “No family or friends knew of any interest in weather balloons, aerial photography, or weather,” a police document would later say…
String of Emails
They also uncovered a series of emails between Alan and the balloon vendor about the logistics of the balloons he’d purchased, including information about how far the balloon would carry a one pound load, how soon before a launch you can fill the balloon, and how a field was the optimal place to launch.
Back on January 23rd and 24th, Alan bought two helium tanks, paying cash each time. Investigators also found a history of Google searches he’d made going back to 2009. Those searches included questions about whether life insurance policies will pay in the event of a suicide, ways to commit the act, and how fast a gunshot victim dies…
Ultimately, police concluded that Alan’s death had indeed been a suicide, as outlandish as it initially seemed. The balloon used would have lifted a handgun approximately 19 miles into the air and winds would have carried it somewhere north of the Bahamas in the open Atlantic. Neither the balloon, the tanks, or the weapon were ever found.
Please Seek Help
If you or a loved one is struggling and considering self-harm, there are people who want to help you. Please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.