ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis man who disappeared Thanksgiving night and was found dead in the River Des Peres nearly a week later had drowned, the St. Louis Medical Examiner has ruled.
The circumstances of Shawn Gray’s death, however, leave a brother of Gray’s still wondering if he was murdered.
“I don’t feel like it was an accident because he went missing for six days,” said Reginald Taylor, 28, of St. Louis. “That makes no sense to me.”
Gray, 23, was found dead in the shallow basin of the River Des Peres on Dec. 3 near the Lansdowne Avenue overpass. Gray lived in the 7000 block of Nottingham Avenue, about a block from the river. When he was found, city police sent homicide detectives and considered his death as “suspicious.”
The city medical examiner ruled in February that Gray’s death was an accidental drowning, with “acute ethanol intoxication” as a major contributing factor. The exact amount of alcohol in his blood was not available.
Gray’s family last saw him the morning of Thanksgiving Day when Gray was leaving his house to go to work at Cardwell’s restaurant in Clayton, where he was a dishwasher.
After he was found dead, his family found Gray’s 1997 Acura Integra in a parking lot outside MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream and Treatery off Ladue Road near Interstate 170 in Ladue. The lot is about a half-mile from Cardwell’s.
It turns out a Clayton patrol officer had stopped Gray’s vehicle Thanksgiving night near Maryland Avenue and Interstate 170. Police Chief Kevin Murphy said he isn’t sure why the officer stopped Gray, but he has since learned the officer did not arrest or ticket Gray, instead allowing him to take a taxi home. Murphy said manpower and resources were particularly stretched that week because of unrest after a grand jury’s announcement not to indict a Ferguson police officer for fatally shooting a teenager.
“Due to the extraordinary nature of what was going on, the officer placed him in a cab and secured his vehicle,” Murphy said. “Officers do have that discretion in such matters.”
It’s not clear how Gray ended up in the river near his home.
Gray was the youngest of four brothers and one sister, Taylor said. Taylor said his brother attended Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis and had taken classes at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Gray’s hobbies included playing guitar and skateboarding.
Taylor, Gray’s brother, said he is puzzled why his brother’s body didn’t turn up for six days later and suspects someone, perhaps an enemy of his, killed him over a “personal vendetta.”
“It’s never over,” Taylor said. “We’re never going to give up on him. We’re still searching for answers.”