No answers behind how, why of 36 Clark County deaths last year

No one knows how Joshua Dameron died.

Not his father, not police and not even the Clark County coroner’s office.

The 38-year-old man from Kingman, Arizona, was reported missing May 12 by his father, David Dameron. Then, more than a month went by before his only son’s remains were found June 16 under the hot sun in a patch of open desert in Laughlin.

“As you can imagine there wasn’t much left of him, so it’s been very tough,” his father said Thursday. “We can’t get answers from anyone.”

Ultimately, the coroner’s office was unable to nail down how or why Joshua Dameron had died. And so his death certificate was stamped with the word “undetermined.”

His case was one of 36 such deaths investigated by the coroner’s office last year, in which the manner of death could not be determined.

Last year, 17,533 people died throughout the county, according to data obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The coroner’s office investigated 4,387 of those deaths in some capacity, and the newspaper examined 4,368 cases, excluding 19 that were still pending positive identification.

The county coroner investigates all deaths caused by any criminal means, violence or suicide and any unattended death in the Las Vegas Valley, Laughlin, Searchlight, Mesquite, Overton and Logandale.

Coroner rulings

A manner of death is ruled one of five ways at the coroner’s office: natural, homicide, suicide, accident and undetermined.

Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but in 2013, then-Coroner Michael Murphy told the Review-Journal that a case becomes undetermined if investigators are unable to medically explain the cause of death or if the case has conflicting manners of death.

“Undetermined cases don’t happen often,” he said at the time. “It’s less than 1 percent of our cases.”

Still, that 12-letter word has haunted the Dameron family since June, and has made it close to impossible to move on.

“The coroner did all what they could do with what was left of him,” David Dameron said. “But I guess they really couldn’t find anything.”

Now, desperate for answers, Joshua’s parents, who are divorced but have been in constant contact since their son’s death, are considering hiring a private investigator.

“What really makes it hard now is just not having any closure,” David Dameron said.

He and his son, who was outgoing, funny and kind, did everything together, he said. The two loved to be outdoors and had plans to take a train up to Oregon for a camping and fishing trip that summer.

“I can honestly say he was not only my son, he was my best friend,” David Dameron said, his voice shaky.

How they died

While Joshua Dameron’s family continues to search for answers, manners of death were declared for the remaining cases handled by the coroner’s office last year.

Just less than half of them died of natural causes, while the next leading manner of death last year was suicide, with 495 deaths ruled as such, the data show. In 2017, the coroner’s office investigated 476 suicides.

The blistering desert heat also killed 65 people last year, and it was listed a significant factor in 93 more deaths.

One woman died from a fat embolism during a routine liposuction procedure while two people, including 58-year-old Susan Sweeney, died after canine maulings.

Her husband, Patrick, arrived home from work late Oct. 1 to find his wife of 26 years mauled to death by the family’s newly adopted 3-year-old dog. She was home alone when the attack happened.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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