ARLINGTON, Va. U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor died of blunt head and neck trauma consistent with a fall downstairs, the Virginia medical examiner s office said yesterday.
Although a police investigation is ongoing, the lead detective on the case believes Mr. Gillmor accidentally fell down the stairs in his suburban Washington townhouse.
Mr. Gillmor fell backward from several steps up, said Dr. Constance DiAngelo, assistant chief medical examiner, who performed an autopsy.
Exactly why Mr. Gillmor fell has yet to be determined. Additional tests are pending, Dr. DiAngelo said.
The cause was blunt head and neck trauma, and the manner is accident, said Lucy Caldwell, a spokesman for the Virginia Health Department s northern Virginia region.
The congressman s family was informed of the findings, according to a statement from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, which is a division within the state health agency.
The medical examiner s investigation will not be finalized until all chemical and other tests are complete, the statement said.
Mr. Gillmor, who was 68, a 10-term Republican congressman from Tiffin, was found dead Wednesday morning in his Arlington, Va., residence by two of his staff members.
They went to the townhouse after he failed to show up for a congressional hearing that morning. They found his body on the floor near the base of the steps leading to the second floor, police said.
The blunt trauma to his head is what killed him, Dr. DiAngelo said. And the investigation points to there is no foul play. It was an accidental death.
Dr. DiAngelo said the medical examiner s office concluded that Mr. Gillmor s death was accidental partly from the autopsy results, partly from information that the medical examiner s office got from police, and partly from a retrospective scene visit to the townhouse that was conducted by the medical examiner s office.
Mr. Gillmor had what Dr. DiAngelo described as an impact site, where he struck the back of his head.
A flag at the U.S. Capitol flies at half-staff in honor of Rep. Paul Gillmor and former Rep. Jennifer Dunn. Both died Wednesday.
He has a skull fracture at the back of the head, and contusions or injuries to the brain that are very classic when somebody falls and strikes his head, she said.
Dr. DiAngelo said a microscopic examination and toxicology analysis by the medical examiner s office are pending.
She said the medical examiner s office also may test levels of electrolytes natural body chemicals found in the bloodstream because Mr. Gillmor had a history of diabetes.
Electrolyte testing would make sure his glucose wasn t elevated or he was in any way dehydrated or he has any damage to his kidney function any of which could have led to circumstances of sudden death and falling backwards, Dr. DiAngelo said.
Detective Steve Gomez, a spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department, said he spoke to the lead detective on the Gillmor case who met yesterday with the medical examiner.
Michael Rowling, one of two homicide detectives handling the Gillmor case and its lead investigator, hasn t closed the case, but he believes it s an accident, Detective Gomez said.
It just appears to be a man who fell down some stairs.
Dr. DiAngelo said Mr. Gillmor s death certificate lists the date as Wednesday, the day on which he was pronounced dead. She said the medical examiner s office tries to ascertain the time of death by the police investigation and by looking at when a person was last seen and when he entered his house.
Based on what I have so far, she said, Mr. Gillmor s death apparently happened within a 12-hour window of when his body was found Wednesday.
Mr. Gillmor had chronic medical issues, according to Dr. DiAngelo.
Mr. Gillmor has [sic] very significant and severe heart disease, she said. With the naked eye, I m not seeing what the lay public would call a heart attack.
But she said the medical examiner s office will do further microscopic analysis, explaining that frequently people have a cardiac arrhythmia where the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly or a dysrhythmia.
That s classic cardiac death, and it leaves no sign, she said.
Dr. DiAngelo said she is one of two forensic pathologists in the medical examiner s northern district office. She said she started her forensic pathology training in 1998, began working in medical examiner s offices in 1999, and has worked in the northern Virginia office for more than two years. She said Virginia s chief medical examiner has been involved in the Gillmor case.
Mr. Gillmor served in the Ohio Senate 1967-89 and was its president from 1981-83 and 1985-89. He was elected to Congress in 1988.