Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 1, 2014

Police try to follow missing man's steps

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City police look to trace a Petoskey-area man’s path from a hospital and into the cold water that claimed his life.

Jeremy Leroy Zerbe, 35, walked from Munson Healthcare’s behavioral health services building late Feb. 25 and went missing. Authorities on Monday pulled his body from the waters in the marina at Clinch Park.

A medical examiner ruled Tuesday that Zerbe died from accidental cold water drowning, likely on the day he went missing. No signs of foul play were reported.

Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling said the date Grand Traverse Bay froze over could give a strong indication as to where Zerbe entered the water. Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay officials mark that day as Feb. 3.

“If that’s the case, the only two likely entry points are the Boardman River or the marina,” Ayling said.

Authorities found Zerbe’s body clad only in boxer shorts, shoes and socks. Ayling said it’s his opinion that Zerbe undressed before entering the water.

“I can’t say how nature could have taken his pants and shirt off,” he said.

Ayling said detectives are still looking into how Zerbe died, but several clues are suggestive of suicide.

Zerbe struggled from depression and left his wallet behind when he walked from the hospital. National Weather Service records show temperatures hovered at 6 degrees, with subzero wind chills and snow showers.

“To me, if you leave without a phone and wallet, it means you’re not planning ahead,” Ayling said.

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