MATTOON, IL—In a press conference Monday, Mattoon-area police announced that the early death of Derek Yothers, 42, will be alcohol-related.
"Until we can complete a full investigation, we're considering Yothers' future death to be the result of alcohol poisoning," patrolman John O'Malley said. "However, we haven't ruled out hepatitis, kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, acute pancreatitis, Wernicke-Korsakoff's syndrome, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, or fatal injuries sustained in some kind of drunk-driving accident."
O'Malley said police do not suspect that there will be foul play.
"Yothers' on-again/off-again girlfriend Brandi Freyer could get fed up and shoot him," O'Malley said. "But it's much more likely to be an open-and-shut case in which Yothers drives off the side of a bridge."
"We'll need the coroner's report before we file this away for good, of course," O'Malley added. "But even if he drunkenly trips on the ice and breaks his neck, burns himself to a cinder after passing out with a lit cigarette in his mouth, or dives through a plate-glass window in a show of bravado and bleeds to death, we'll probably still list 'alcohol' as the cause of death."
Details of Yothers' demise will not be finalized until his weakened, inefficient heart and damaged but functioning brain cease to operate. But police said Yothers—who is unemployed, twice divorced, and freshly released from a 15-month prison sentence in Joliet—is unlikely to drag the case out much longer.
"We marked the time of death sometime between today and two years from now," O'Malley said. "We can't say for sure what his blood-alcohol level will be at the time of death, but we know it will be well past the legal limit. Ever since he lost his job at the camper factory, he's pretty much kept his head in a bottle."
O'Malley described the scene of the future death.
"His body could be found in any number of places—a ditch on Hwy. 57, a stall in the men's room, sprawled out on Brandi's stained mattress," O'Malley said. "In any case, he'll almost certainly be face-down, possibly in his dog's water dish. We're bound to find at least two or three empty Jack Daniel's bottles next to his bed. That is, unless he's waiting on his next unemployment check, in which case those bottles will be Old Crow."
Police notified Yothers' family of his pending death Tuesday.
"That's one phone call you never want to make," O'Malley said. "I've known the Yothers family for years—I end up out at their house for a disturbing-the-peace call every year around the holidays. But they're basically good folks. I hate to give people news like that. It's the toughest part of this job."
Continued O'Malley: "They took it well. I assured them that he'll probably feel very little pain when he goes, considering how drunk he'll be. That seemed to make them feel better. Really, they've been expecting this for a while."
Derek's older brother, Mark Yothers, spoke on the family's behalf.
"You can't help but feel guilty for not doing more to stop him," Mark said. "If only he could have gotten help, I'd still have my brother here with me three years from now. The only consolation we have is that he'll be in a better place someday, where his soul can find peace."
Other people close to Yothers are bracing themselves for his death.
"I just saw him over at the gas station yesterday," said Eric Pugh, Yothers' former coworker. "He was buying a frozen pizza and a sixer of Miller High Life. He seemed just fine, nothing out of the ordinary at all. We talked about going to that bar over in Effingham for $3 pitchers of Old Style. I sure hope we get a chance to do that before it's too late."
Funeral services for Yothers will be attended by a handful of family members and friends, after which his body will be buried in the family plot. During the gathering, the family will play "She Talks To Angels" by The Black Crowes, unless Yothers' favorite song changes between now and the time of his death.