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Autopsy: Manipulation of scene, no traumatic injury in Duluth man's death

LAWRENCEVILLE — The odd scene in Donald Singer’s Duluth garage — the deceased 57-year-old’s body wrapped in a blanket and towel, doused in bleach — may have been an elaborate plan to conceal his true cause of death.

An autopsy report obtained by the Daily Post found “no evidence of significant traumautic injury prior to” Singer’s death and officially called his cause of death undetermined “due to postmortem manipulation of the scene.” Gwinnett County Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry didn’t parse words when writing her opinion.

Photographs of the scene, information provided by law enforcement and her office’s own investigation, Terry wrote, “give the impression of a scene that had been staged to cover up or to misdirect investigation away from the subject’s actual cause of death.”

Singer’s daughter reportedly discovered his body during a March 28 visit to his home on Montheath Pass. Duluth police responded and reported that Singer, who lived alone, had been wrapped in blankets and that an overwhelming smell of bleach came from the garage. They noted a broken window pane on a rear door.

They quickly realized that Singer’s 1988 Porsche 944 was missing and issued warrants for Robert Sandman, a convicted felon with ties to one of Singer’s neighbors. Sandman was charged with theft by taking — and arrested in New Mexico before being erroneously released — but has not been called a murder suspect.

In fact, there may not have been a murder at all.

Terry said that Singer’s death likely occurred in the garage, and that the “blood” mentioned in an initial police report was actually “purge” fluid emitted from the nose and mouth after death. Prescription drugs and opioids reportedly found in Singer’s system were not at toxic levels and his blood tested negative for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The blanket, towel and bleach — which caused chemical burns on Singer’s body — were all postmortem additions to the scene.

“Concerns are that the subject may have died as a result of natural causes (such as due to cardiac dysrhythmia caused by hypertensive cardiovascular disease), been exposed to a toxi subtance — either intentionally or unintentionally — that went undetected by the toxicologic analysis, or have been engaged in autoerotic behavior,” Terry wrote. “These possible scenarios do not represent an exhaustive list of possible ways in which the subject could have died but are examples of causes of death that are reflective of natural, suicidal, and accidental manners of death.”

She went on: “Further characterization of the cause and manner of death are not possible without information about how the scene appeared prior to its manipulation.”