It was a disturbing sight: urban explorers are out in Detroit (the town is probably “Mecca” for urban exploration) when they come across a body frozen in ice, with the exception of his feet sticking out at the top.
“He’s encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks,” the caller phoned.
Playing hockey in the basement of the abandoned Roosevelt Warehouse (near 14th St. and Michigan Avenue), the explorers noticed the body submerged in the water that had collected there (now frozen). It is said they continued their game.
Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.
The building has a history. It used to be a book repository for Detroit Public Schools. Before that it was the city’s main post office. On March 4th, 1987, there was a fire and a scandal erupted as school supplies and thousands of books (still in usable condition) were abandoned.
The building was eventually sold to Matty Moroun, the trucking and real estate mogul who is worth billions of dollars and is the largest private property owner in the state of Michigan. Among other properties, Moroun owns the decrepit Michigan Central Rail Depot that squats directly next to the warehouse. The train station has become the symbol of Detroit’s decay. Like much of his property in southwestern Detroit, Moroun’s warehouse and the train station are gaping sores.
The dead man’s name was Johnnie Redding. He died roughly a month ago – either he was pushed or he fell down the open elevator shaft into 5 feet of water, later turned frozen by the weather. His wallet was found; he was born on 9-29-1952, residing in River Rouge. According to his brother Homer
Johnnie was infected with the need for drugs and alcohol. Rundown buildings were his clubhouse. “He chose the life for whatever reason,” Redding said. “But he wasn’t homeless. Please don’t call him homeless. He always had a place to go. He was loved.” It wasn’t always this way for Johnnie. He worked until he was 40 at a local steel mill alongside his father. Then Johnnie’s brother Marion died of an overdose. “That’s when I seen the change,” Homer said. “He was very close to Marion.”
Johnnie Redding died of a cocaine overdose, coroners said.
His autopsy revealed no broken bones, no wounds and no water in his lungs, which means he did not fall into the flooded shaft and drown. Most likely, Johnnie was smoking cocaine with somebody and died, coroners suspect. Johnnie’s party pal may have panicked and tossed his body down the water-filled shaft.
It was the final word on a man whose death might have gone unnoticed.