Angry mother vows to keep looking into son's death

  • Article by: VINCE TUSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2010 - 10:36 PM

St. Paul police say the Daniel Zamlen investigation is complete. But Sally Zamlen continues to raise questions.

Sally Zamlen is clear about her anger over how the St. Paul police investigated the death of her son, Daniel.

The University of St. Thomas freshman vanished in April on his way home from a party. His body was found in May in the Mississippi River near the Ford Motor Co. plant, almost a month after his 19th birthday.

"There are a lot of upset people here right now over the disrespecting of my son and his good name," she said Monday by phone from Eveleth, Minn., talking of negligence and foul play being ignored.

But St. Paul police say the case is closed. The Ramsey County medical examiner's office had ruled it an accident caused by "fresh water drowning."

"Barring any new evidence or information, the investigation is complete and inactive," police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell said on Monday.

He had said much the same thing in June, when the ruling was made. Since then, Zamlen's family has shared new information, including a second autopsy and toxicology results that Sally Zamlen said show her son had in his liver GHB, a drug that can cause blackouts or lead to death.

She continues to feel strongly that police didn't talk to the right people, didn't follow up leads and didn't take advantage of the help offered by other agencies. "I don't believe any investigation really was done."

She also questions why the hosts of the party that her son attended before his disappearance haven't faced charges. She cites Kevin's Law, which makes it a felony to sell alcohol to those under 21 when it results in death or great bodily harm, as well as the recent charges filed in Washington County against a Wisconsin man accused of buying vodka before a fatal Jan. 29 crash.

Zamlen said that investigators told her that there was a keg at the party, with beer being sold for $5 a cup, but "police then tell me they can't prove it."

Schnell said the investigation found Dan Zamlen possessed and consumed alcohol before coming to the party, complicating any case against the hosts.

For now, Sally Zamlen said, she is continuing to pursue the case "on my own."

She already has helped to create some change. Zamlen testified for a law that now requires authorities to take missing-persons reports for adults "without delay" and conduct preliminary investigations to see if fears of harm appear to be founded.

"I'm done with the police,'' she said. "They've done nothing for me, and I feel sorry for the taxpayers in St. Paul."

Vince Tuss • 612-673-7692

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