The coroner’s office hasn’t found a next of kin for the man who committed suicide 12 days ago in the parking lot at the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign.
That alone speaks volumes of his isolation.
His name is not being released while the search for someone to notify continues. But officials said he was a 48-year-old white man who lived in Las Vegas for at least 13 years. He was an unemployed commercial truck driver when he drove to the parking lot on Las Vegas Boulevard South near Russell Road and shot himself in the head early Aug. 5.
His Toyota pickup had license plates with the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign on it; so presumably, he liked the sign well enough to want to pay the extra fee for it.
The man’s driver’s license was on him, so finding his name and address was easy. The tough part for Felicia Borla, a coroner’s investigator for 10 years, is finding next of kin. So far, she’s struck out.
The manager of the mobile home where he lived said the man had lived there for 12 years and normally paid his rent regularly, but hadn’t paid his rent that month.
“The manager said he kept to himself and he’d seen him the day before, but there were no signs of a problem,” Borla said.
However, he had removed most of his personal things from his home before killing himself.
“That’s unusual,” she said, although people planning to commit suicide sometimes mail their personal effects to someone out-of-state before killing themselves.
The man left no note. There was no pet. (Sometimes people kill their pet first.)
The man didn’t have a record of any kind, his driver’s license and car registration were current and he appeared to be a law-abiding citizen, Borla said.
But she can’t find any family to notify. She’s checking the usual places, but his work card and employment records don’t list any emergency contact.
There was nothing in hospital records or missing persons. She even checked Facebook to see if he was on the social-networking site, a search that has become routine.
But he wasn’t on Facebook with a slew of friends. Nor would you expect him to be.
Why did he pick that parking lot in front of that sign to end his life? There are plenty of places he could have chosen. Why there? What did that sign represent to him?
“I certainly understand why the guy went to the sign. It’s an effort to make something significant of an insignificant life,” said Lt. Tom Monahan, who studied suicide during his years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Monahan worked homicides and suicides for years before becoming director of the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center.
Monahan wasn’t surprised no next of kin had been found.
“It’s that social isolation that drives people to suicide,” he said. “It’s going to make perfect sense when you understand it. Folks inclined to suicide are depressed and feel helplessness and hopelessness. You see an overwhelming, almost oppressive sense of inadequacy. They hope to do something spectacular by which they’ll be remembered.
“It’s the same as Columbine, the same as the Virginia Tech shootings. The desire to do something spectacular. There’s a very fine line between suicides and homicides.”
Monahan predicted there will be more suicides there now that the parking lot has made the sign an easily accessed symbolic site.
The sign has been there for 50 years, but the parking lot that made it less dangerous to stop for a photo op has been open only since December. Hordes line up, day and night, to take photos of themselves with the sign that symbolizes the fabulous fun is about to begin.
But the sign that welcomes visitors to our city of chances may represent loneliness and joblessness to a Las Vegan considering suicide.
If no family is located, the coroner’s office will arrange to have the man cremated. Eventually, his name will become public and will be a brief in a newspaper and a sentence on a television newscast.
His final act will be remembered, but his yet-to-be-disclosed name will be forgotten.
There must be more to his story, but who knows him well enough to tell it?
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.