Suicide or slaying? Second autopsy shows banker had gunshot wound to head

By Mitch Hotts | mhotts@medianewsgroup.com and Associated press | The Morning Sun
PUBLISHED: October 21, 2010 at 6:32 a.m. | UPDATED: June 17, 2021 at 7:50 a.m.

MOUNT CLEMENS — A new autopsy shows that a Michigan banker whose body was found in Lake St. Clair was shot in the head, and authorities said Wednesday it could be either a homicide or a suicide. Mount Clemens banker David Widlak was shot in the back of the head, Sheriff Mark Hackel said in a press conference. A handgun – owned by Widlak – was found in the water near a boat launch ramp between Crocker Avenue and Shook Road in Harrison Township. Hackel says gunshot was cause of death – not undetermined as initially reported by the county medical examiner, Dr. Daniel Spitz. But whether it was suicide or homicide is not known at this time, pending more police investigation. “We are shocked at this latest turn of events,” the Widlak family said in a statement to The Macomb Daily. “We are now looking to law enforcement officials to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.” The gunshot wound was to the back of the head at the base of the neck, Spitz says, and would have been fatal. But the Oakland County medical examiner, Dr. L.J. Dragovic, who was retained by the Widlak family for a second autopsy in the case, declared Monday it was a homicide, and that Widlak was indeed shot “execution”-style. Dragovic says it was “mid-back” of the neck. Spitz said the X-ray equipment available to him in Macomb County is not as good as Oakland County’s. In Macomb, the machine takes a series of digital photos, while the Oakland County equipment is able to provide a continuous electronic picture and a variety of angles can be viewed. Widlak, 62, the CEO of Community Central Bank in downtown Mount Clemens had been missing until his body was found Sunday evening in a marshy area of Lake St. Clair in Harrison Township. Widlak, of Grosse Pointe Farms, was last was seen at the Mount Clemens-based Community Central Bank Corp. administrative offices Sept. 19. His car was in the parking lot when a maintenance worker found the offices in disarray the following morning. The Macomb County sheriff’s department released copies of 911 calls in the case on Wednesday. In the first call Sept. 20, a bank employee described finding Community Central Bank Corp.’s offices in disarray that day. The caller says “there’s furniture turned upside down and everything.” Authorities have said a maintenance worker at David Widlak’s offices placed the call. The second call was placed Sunday by a duck hunter, who described finding the remains. “Pretty sure there’s a dead body in the water over here. Floating,” the caller said. The hunter said he was in the water in a canoe when he spotted the body.

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Body of missing banker found, say police

Daily Tribune staff photo by David Posavetz
By Gordon Wilczynski
Daily Tribune Staff Writer
Posted: 10/18/10, 12:00 AM EDT |

This undated photo released by the Macomb County Sheriff's Department in Mount Clemens, Mich., on Sept. 21, shows David and Anne Widlak of Grosse Pointe Farms, David Widlak, 62, is president and chief executive of Community Central Bank Corp. and was reported missing after last being seen at his office Sept. 19 in Mount Clemens. Anne Widlak made a public appeal Tuesday for her husband, if he hears her, to "please come home." Authorities have been searching a river for signs of the missing banker. (AP Photo/Macomb County Sheriff's Department)

The body of missing Mount Clemens banker David Widlak has been found by duck hunters in Lake St. Clair.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said an autopsy will be performed this morning by Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz to determine the cause of death.

Hackel said the body has badly decomposed.

"There were no obvious signs on the body that there was any foul play," Hackel said. "I can't speculate at this point how Dave died," said Hackel, an acquaintance of Widlak for some time.

Hackel said the body was found at 7:06 p.m. on Sunday floating at the top of the water in a couple of feet of water. It was found near a Department of Natural Resources lake access site just off Jefferson Avenue between Shook Road and Crocker Avenue.

Hackel said the duck hunters called the sheriff's department and deputies rushed out to the area. A dive team also was summoned to look for any evidence to a crime in the water.

Hackel said the clothing the man the hunters found was wearing the same clothing Widlak wore when he was captured on a surveillance tape when he disappeared from the bank on Sept. 19. Hackel said the body had on Widlak's shoes, pants, belt, shirt, watch, wedding ring, wallet, driver's license and cash.

"I can't speculate what happened to Dave," Hackel said. "Whenever there is a death of this kind we treat it as a homicide."

Hackel said he went to Widlak's home in Grosse Pointe Shores on Sunday night and notified Widlak's wife, Ann and his brother, Paul.

"Everyone was trying to be hopeful that Dave was somewhere alive," Hackel said. "It's very sad. Very, very sad.

"Dave was more than just a banker. He was a husband, father, grandfather, friend."

The body was found four miles from where Widlak was last seen in downtown Mount Clemens.

Body of missing MI attorney-turned-banker found

October 19, 2010

Official: Banker David Widlak’s body has no blunt force trauma
Elisha Anderson, Christina Hall and Tammy Stables Battaglia
October 18, 2010
Detroit Free Press

A body found in Lake St. Clair in Harrison Township was positively identified as missing Mt. Clemens bank president and CEO David Widlak, Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said this afternoon.

The county medical examiner determined that there was no blunt force trauma to Widlak’s body, Hackel said.

Widlak’s body was positively identified through dental records. Toxicology tests may take three to four weeks to determine if there was anything in Widlak’s system, Hackel said.

Investigators have not determined the cause and manner of his death as toxicology tests are pending. They have not ruled out if his death is an accident, a suicide or a homicide, Hackel said.

The badly decomposed body was found Sunday evening by two duck hunters on Lake St. Clair, Hackel said in a morning news conference.

Hackel said Widlak’s personal identification was found with the body and clothing on the body matched the description of the banker’s attire on the day he disappeared four weeks ago.

Widlak’s body was spotted 3-5 feet from shore in shallow water near boat ramps at the Clinton River Cut Off Boating Access Site, Hackel said.

Rick Velger, co-owner of Hideaway Harbor, which is just northeast of where the body was found, said the site is busy with people launching boats and estimated between 20 and 30 go in and out on a Saturday, mostly fishermen and duck hunters.

He said he takes boats out about every other day and was on one as recently as Sunday. Velger drove a boat out around 1:30 p.m. and one back around 2 p.m. He has a clear view of the area where the body was when he is on the water, and said he didn’t see anything.

“If something was floating, we’d see it,” Velger said.

Hackel said he has spoken to Widlak’s wife, Anne, and while it wasn’t the outcome she had hoped for, she’s “thankful to know he’s been located.”

Widlak, 62, of Grosse Pointe Farms had last been seen walking out the back door of Community Central Bank in Mt. Clemens on Sept. 19.

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office was back on the scene this morning with evidence technicians and divers are in the water searching for more clues.

The scene of the investigation is about 4 miles from where Widlak was last seen.

The Widlaks’ neighbor Margit Jackson said today she feels badly for his family.

“Maybe it gives them closure, or maybe it raises more questions than it answers, especially for his wife,” Jackson said today, as cars came and went from the couple’s colonial tucked away on Old Brook. “It’s sad. It’s a shame.”

The bank released a statement offering condolences to Widlak’s family and saying the bank is operating with no disruptions.

Gail Madziar, vice president for membership and communications for Lansing-based Michigan Bankers Association, said the group was saddened by the news of Widlak’s death.

“He was well respected in the banking community and active in the association, serving as MBA Group Chair for his bank’s region,” Madziar said today. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and the employees and customers at Community Central Bank.”

Sterling Heights lawyer Chuck Turnbull, Widlak’s best man at the banker’s 2004 wedding to Anne Widlak, was at a loss for words when asked what he hopes happens with the investigation into his friend’s death.

“It’s just tragic,” Turnbull, also the president of the Macomb County Bar Association, said this afternoon. He’s known Widlak since they practiced law together 33 years ago. “He’s a great friend and he was a great leader in the southeast Michigan business community. He’s going to be missed.”

Mt. Clemens lawyer Julie Gatti wrote a glowing story about Widlak’s transformation from trial lawyer to bank president for the Macomb County Bar Association. She said today that looking out her office window at Community Central Bank down the street will never be the same.

“Downtown doesn’t feel the same without him,” Gatti said. “I just can’t even get my brain around it. He’s probably one of the last people on earth I thought this could happen to. It just breaks my heart. Downtown Mt. Clemens, the city feels different to me without him in it.”

The last time she saw him, Widlak shared his excitement about a Wayne State University program to bring students from China to take classes in Mt. Clemens satellite classrooms.

“He was talking about 300 students coming to Mt. Clemens and the housing values going up, and he was just so excited about it,” said Gatti, treasurer of the Macomb County Bar Association. “He was just a ball of energy. And always smiling, having all these ideas all the time.”

Community Central Bank Says Body of Missing CEO Clemens Discovered in Lake
Nishad Majmudar
October 18, 2010

Community Central Bank Corp., the lender based in Mount Clemens, Michigan, said police think they have found the body of Chief Executive Officer David Widlak, who went missing last month.

The remains were discovered yesterday evening in Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, 27 miles north of Detroit, according to a company statement today. The bank named Chief Financial Officer Ray Colonius acting CEO Sept. 22. The cause of death hasn’t been determined, the Detroit News reported, citing Sheriff Mark Hackel. Hackel didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

“The staff, management and board of Community Central Bank are deeply saddened to learn of this development,” Colonius said in the statement. “For our customers, Community Central Bank continues to operate with no disruptions under the bank’s executives and staff members. Our succession plan contemplates all circumstances including tragedies such as this.”

The bank, based in a town of about 16,000 people, had $540.3 million in assets as of June 30. The lender, which reported a loss of $14.6 million last year, traded at a peak of $14.55 in February 2005. The stock fell 6.1 percent today to 62 cents in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

Widlak, a licensed attorney, also served as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, according to a biography that was previously posted on the company’s website.

Cause of missing banker's death unknown after body found in lake

For The Oakland Press/DAVE POSAVETZ Macomb County Sheriff's divers searched the lakeshore in Harrison Township for several hours on Monday looking for additional evidence after the body of missing banker David Widlak was discovered there the night before.


Posted: 10/18/10, 12:00 AM EDT |

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel didn't have to wait for dental records to confirm a badly decomposed body found floating face up along the Lake St. Clair shore was that of missing banker David Widlak.

"Once I saw the body in the water, there was no question -- I knew it was him," said Hackel, who was an acquaintance of the former banker.

Dental records on Monday confirmed the corpse was Widlak, a 62-year-old former CEO of Community Central Bank in Mount Clemens and a Grosse Pointe Farms husband, father and grandfather, who had been missing since Sept. 20.

An autopsy conducted by Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz indicated there was no blunt force trauma to the body but stopped short of ruling on the cause and manner of death.

Investigators are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which could take up to four weeks to receive, to determine if he had been poisoned or had other harmful substances in his body.

But the discovery of the body raised more questions than it answered in the month-old mystery, such as:

How did Widlak, who was last seen walking out the back door of the bank, arrive at the location where the body was found near Jefferson and Shook in Harrison Township -- a distance of about four miles

Could Widlak, who may have felt pressured about financial troubles at the bank, have been forced to the location or walked there on his own?
How or why did his cell phone activate at close to midnight the night he vanished?

Why had Widlak purchased a semi-automatic handgun, that he left in the drawer of his bank office, a few weeks before he was reported missing?

Investigators say it's possible the full story of what happened to Widlak -- and why -- may never be fully known.

Until toxicology results are known, police say they will treat the case as a homicide until they can prove otherwise, although they acknowledge it's likely he drowned in the lake.

"We have had cases of people simply walking into the open water," Hackel said, adding most suicides are carried out with a handgun, drug overdose, hanging or carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Is this a normal thing? I don't think it's normal. But if it was suicide, you have to wonder what was going through his mind."

The body was found in about two feet of water around 7 p.m. Sunday by a pair of duck hunters whose boat was caught in the weeds at a state Department of Natural Resources boat launch north of the Clinton River Spillway. They called 911.

Sheriff's investigators removed the body Sunday night and then returned to the marshy area with a dive team Monday morning to search the area for four to five hours.

Widlak's wallet, wedding ring, cash, and other personal items were on him, but a hat, jacket and a fanny pack were not located. He was wearing the same clothing he had on when he was captured on surveillance tape when leaving the bank.

Officials believe Widlak entered the water near where the body was found and had been in the same location for the past month.

The area had received a visual search early on in the investigation from Blossom Heath at 10 Mile and Jefferson down to the Clinton River, but police do not believe the body would have been visible from the street.

As a rule of thumb, the body of a drowning victim generally takes three days to rise to the surface, according to sheriff's officials.

Widlak was last seen on a security videotape leaving the back door of Community Central Bank in downtown Mount Clemens at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19. His car was in the parking lot.

His cell phone was activated sometime around midnight that day. The cell phone provider indicated the call came from St. Clair Shores, a few miles south of where the body was found.

The sheriff said he could not speculate on what caused the phone to activate, whether it was a battery reaction to entering the water or if Widlak was making a last-minute call for help.

The sheriff and two detectives went to Widlak's home in Grosse Pointe Farms on Sunday night and notified Widlak's wife, Anne, and his brother, Paul, of their findings. He said the family was very distraught and upset, but was relieved the body had been found.

The family issued a statement on Monday thanking the community for the support people have shown them. They also urged the sheriff's office to "conduct a complete investigation" to answer all of the questions surrounding Widlak's death.

Family members have been quoted as saying they still suspect foul play in the case, adding Widlak had recently expressed concern about some potential new investors in the bank.

Widlak, who reportedly had purchased a gun in the weeks before his death that he kept in an office drawer, had been trying to line up new investors to build up the local lender's capital reserves in recent months.

Gebran Anton, a board member at the bank, last month told the Macomb Daily that Widlak had been aggressively "turning over every rock" to bolster the bank's finances. Anton said it was possible that the extensive plan for new venture capital into the bank's portfolio had disintegrated.

The bank's stock, traded on the NASDAQ exchange, fell 6 percent on NASDAQ Monday, to 62 cents a share. In comparison, as recently as September 2005, when the housing market was still strong, Community Central's shares were trading for more than $13.

Community Central issued a statement offering condolences to Widlak's family and assuring customers that the facility "continues to operate with no disruptions under the bank's executives and staff members."

Likewise, the state's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation Commissioner Ken Ross in a statement said Widlak's legacy "as a leader in his hometown and as a strong advocate for Michigan community banks will long be remembered."


 David Widlak