published Friday, September 9th, 2011

Chattanooga police identify weighted body found in South Chickamauga Creek

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    Chattanooga police and fire department officials at a site off Shallowford Road prepare for emergency response crews to send a boat upstream to retrieve a man's body found in South Chickamauga Creek.
    Photo by Kate Harrison /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A man found dead in South Chickamauga Creek with weights in his backpack was laid off from McKee Foods in July, said officials of the company that makes Little Debbie snacks.

Two people found Todd Staats' body Aug. 21 while fishing from a canoe. Casting for bream and other fish, they saw the orange on his sneaker soles sticking out of the water.

His name was a mystery until police released it Thursday. Police said the body was unrecognizable because of decomposition. It was dressed in blue jean shorts and a camouflage ball cap with the name of the University of Tennessee of Chattanooga Mocs on the side.

When the body was found, Chattanooga police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary said investigators would try to get fingerprints and would comb through missing persons' reports, check homeless camps and put out descriptions in the media.

Police still haven't said how Staats, 48, wound up in the water with weights strapped to his body and in a drawstring bag on his back. His death was called suspicious, and police said they're still investigating.

McKee Communications Manager Mike Gloekler said Staat's job was eliminated in a reorganization. When asked for additional information, Gloekler said, "We can't talk about it."

Staats' profile on LinkedIn, a social media site for business networking, shows he worked at McKee for 14 years and for one month as a cable plant architect.

He was a medical service corps officer for the U.S. Army for nine years and four months, the profile said.

He majored in animal science at West Virginia University and then got his master's degree in information systems at the University of Southern California. In 1997, the profile says, he earned another bachelor's degree in information systems from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale.

According to the profile, he wanted to be contacted for career opportunities, job inquiries and business deals.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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328Kwebsite said...

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

The clothing he was described as wearing doesn't sound like it matches his career. Those drawstring backpacks are popular with college kids this year. Staats' resume shows that he was in 10th Mountain for his first assignment. Anyone who's rucked more than a mile would probably shun those drawstring backpacks.

It's also unusual that a Southern graduate would commit suicide, I suspect. One of the tenets of the Seventh Day's religion is that they believe the body they have now will be physically resurrected. Someone from Southern will know who he was.

His resume just doesn't match the clothes he was found in. He did 14 as a networker for McKee. That adjutant assignment and DENTAC XO assignment on his resume: this is the kind of guy who plugs and chugs his way through thankless jobs for years. He was an XO for military dentists at a time when that kind of unit was grossly understaffed; the XO hacks out the internal problems; it'd be his job to slog through all of the stuff that would grind that DENTAC company to a halt. Staats would have held that job at a time when he would have had far below the minimum to work with; also, it was under a time frame when most military professional attention was getting focused elsewhere. He does a year, and they promote him to CO. That's a rapid promotion.

Also notice his postings to that type of job kept him deep in the rear, far away from the Gulf War. When the Gulf War broke out, people in the military were clamoring to get in on it; this guy worked his way through a DENTAC assignment right about that time. As XO.

Medical service officers, unlike medical professional officers like doctors and nurses, actually run hospitals in the military. This man had about ten years of hospital administration experience.

With a Master's degree in networking, he could have had a teaching job at most any college or university in this area. With a pre-vet BS; he's probably a straight A student. Generous experience in computers and hospital administration in a city with area hospitals, medical and disability insurers, several colleges and universities? It's a surprise that he was unemployed.

And then when he dies, he looks like he's just another kid from UTC? I wonder what that means. Maybe a coincidence of life and death; but, I don't feel that fits, either.

I wouldn't be surprised if he never owned one of those drawstring backpacks. If he did, there's a story behind that decision.

It's no wonder the police have some questions. No family wants to face the possibility their loved one committed suicide. The clothing description, though, doesn't sound like it matches the career of the man.

September 9, 2011 at 11:55 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

You can't get a commission as a military medical service officer in the Army without doing the same field time as any other LT. He would have had to have been able to do 12 miles with a full combat load for all of those years he was in.

When Soldiers would arrive at 10th Mountain, it's not unusual for them to be outfitted with the best rucksack the military has to offer at the time. Someone who has been in that unit will know what he wants from a rucksack. Even a hospital staffer.

I can't see anyone who's rucked for days on end under a Soldier's load as wanting to wear one of those drawstring backpacks to cross the street.

Those drawstring backpacks are basically a useless item. It's really out of place. I hope the police figure it out.

September 10, 2011 at 12:08 a.m.
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