Question of Suicide

At 8:30 AM on January 22, 1991 Colonel Sabow’s wife, Sally, left the house and returned at 9:20 AM. Entering, she found the house unexpectedly quiet, the tv on mute and Jimmy absent. Then through the kitchen window, she saw his body laying lifeless in the backyard.


  • Shotgun wound in the mouth.
  • Weapon owned by victim.


  • Victim had a normal conversation with Capt. McBride shortly before his death.
  • Victim received an anonymous phone call at 8:30 AM prompting him to turn his TV on "mute".
  • Next door neighbor denies hearing 12 gauge shotgun blast.
  • No suicide note.
  • Overwhelming physical evidence.

All violent deaths are to be investigated as homicides after accidental causes have been eliminated. ( NIS Manual)

Proof of Suicide:

Rests primarily on negative evidence: the absence of evidence indicating homicide. (Even a suicide note does not prove that the manner of death was suicide)

Proof of Homicide:

Rests with the evidence collected at the crime scene, in addition to the evidence collected during a careful evaluation by the Medical Examiner. The cause of death can be determined by the Medical Examiner but the manner of death is to be determined by the Sheriff/Coroner! The manner of death determination requires an evaluation of all the evidence, much of which is not even available to the Medical Examiner.

Totality of Evidence


  • Talked on phone at 8:20 AM with Capt. McBride
  • Watching tv when received anonymous phone call at 8:30 AM
  • Death occurred between 8:34 AM and 9 AM
  • Placed tv on “mute”
  • Took dogs from backyard and put them in garage
  • FLIGHT RECORDS-no take-offs from 8:30-9 AM
  • Next door neighbor “didn’t hear shotgun blast”
  • Underwood greets visitor at Sabow front yard at 9:15 AM, states “Sabow not at home” later states “I was going over to see Col. Sabow”
  • Between 9:20-9:30 wife discovers body in yard
  • Feels large swelling on back of head
  • Runs next door, yells “Jimmy is dead”.
  • Col. Underwood runs to gate between yards and observes body about 40 to 50 feet away
  • Calls Gen Adams, says “Jimmy is dead. He shot himself in the mouth”.
  • Joan Underwood yells,”Joe, this has gone too far!”


  • Blood evidence-volume, stain and pattern
  • Body and gun position
  • Lump on back of head, blood clot between skull and scalp
  • Depressed skull fracture
  • Total destruction of brainstem
  • Lungs filled with aspirated blood
  • Fingerprint evidence


  • No suicide note
  • Psychological Profile:
    devout Catholic
    loved family
    financially stable