Police now say a man found dead under a railroad bridge in Burlington was killed, and they have identified the victim.
"The victim was identified late Wednesday via fingerprints as Ralph Bell, age 54, of Burlington," said Lt. Jennifer Morrison of the Burlington Police.
Police say Bell's tragic death was no slip and fall. The evidence now points to homicide.
"It appears that Mr. Bell sustained lethal injuries in a violent altercation. Subsequent to that he fell 40 to 50 feet over a sheer cliff," Morrison said.
Investigators would not say why Bell may have been on the bridge in the intervale, but did say it's an extremely dangerous crossing for pedestrians with high fall hazards and other physical dangers in the area. But those risks don't stop Kevin Donaldson from travelling the tracks every day to get to work. On Tuesday morning he noticed something disturbing.
"It was a big pile of blood on the ground. You could not miss it," Donaldson said.
Police found Bell's body beneath the bridge 12 hours later. They are still trying to piece together exactly what happened. The area is a notorious hangout for transients, but police say Bell was not homeless. He lived in an apartment complex on Park Street in Burlington's Old North End. And he worked seasonally on the Valcour Ferry. Since 2008 he ran the snack bar, but a family member told us this season he wasn't working.
On April 21 Bell wrote on his Facebook page, "The weather really sucks, delaying me from going back too [sic] work, we are flooded out down at Breakwaters, who knows when I will return back too work, maybe another month, so depressing keeps you in such a bad mood."
Breakwater Cafe hires the hospitality help. According to management, Bell's employment with the company ended in early May. Bell does have a criminal record dating back to 1989, but nothing in the last six years and nothing violent.
One of the neighbors at Bell's apartment complex said a few of the residents here were worried about Bell's safety after they say he was mugged last week. Police would not confirm or deny if that incident occurred. Investigators did say that they are following up on a several leads and do believe this is an isolated incident.
Morrison said, "At this time we have no specific information to suggest any ongoing risk to the public as a result of this incident beyond the fact that it is a violent crime."
Police are not releasing the specifics of Bell's injuries or his cause of death because those are details police say only his killer would know. They're also not saying whether they have any suspects.
If anyone has any information about the case they're urged to call the Burlington Police Department at 802-540-2222.
Friday, April 18 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:04:40 GMT
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road. Investigators say 63-year-old Eric Ladd was walking slipped and hitMore >>
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:00:59 GMT
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire. On Wednesday workers were doing spring clean-up at Wheelock park when they found a 55-gallon drumMore >>
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:58 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:58:40 GMT
There's been a tragedy on the Burlington beltway Thursday night. Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltway. The name has been releasedMore >>
Burlington Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltline.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:08:04 GMT
Police say two people found dead at a home in Stowe are believed to have died in a murder-suicide. Police are still not releasing their names or the cause of death, but they say the victims are adults. StoweMore >>
A Stowe couple is dead after what police say was a murder-suicide. The news came as a shock to neighbors who say they never noticed any red flags. More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-17 22:58:26 GMT
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury. Timothy Foley did appear in court Thursday in Middlebury. He wasn't there last time,More >>
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:26 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:26:34 GMT
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to...More >>
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to 12 months.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-04-17 16:05:16 GMT
A teenager has been arrested for making a bomb threat in St. Albans. Police say the threat was made to Project SOAR, an alternative school, Wednesday morning. The building was searched and no bomb wasMore >>
Police say a teenager has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat to an alternative school in St. Albans.More >>