Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

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For immediate release: Alex Murphy
  DCI Public Information Officer
Investigative Operations
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Monday, May 3, 2010
(515) 443-3014 - cell
(515) 725-6189 - office


Indianola, Iowa --- The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation held a press conference today to update the public and the media on the investigation into the death of 19 year old Benjamin Backstrom, who died last Tuesday.

At approximately 1:33 a.m. on Tuesday, April 27, 2010, Warren County dispatch received a 911 call reporting a man leaning over the side of the bridge on Highway 65/69, four miles north of Indianola, at the Middle River bridge.  Sheriff’s deputies arrived to find an injured white male.  The man, later identified as Benjamin Backstrom, was taken by ground ambulance to a Des Moines hospital.  Backstrom was pronounced dead at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

The Warren County Sheriff’s office requested assistance from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).  Investigators treated this case as they do all suspicious death investigations: as a homicide investigation.

A thorough investigation by the DCI and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, including a review of evidence, surveillance videos, eye-witness accounts, a search of the Middle River by the Metro STAR Team, and interviews with people who knew Backstrom well, revealed no credible threats against Backstrom.  The investigation revealed that at approximately 12:40 a.m., Backstrom’s car was parked in a lot at the east end of Summerset State Park and at approximately 1:20 a.m., Backstrom was alone on the Hwy 65/69 bridge over the Middle River, approximately one and one half mile away from his vehicle.

Late last week, the scope of the investigation began to shift from homicide, to the possibility that the Backstrom’s injury may have been self-inflicted. At this time, investigators believe Backstrom died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
On Wednesday, April 28, 2010, following an autopsy, the Polk County Medical Examiner determined Backstrom’s cause of death as a single gunshot wound to the head.  Backstrom’s manner of death is still under investigation.

The investigation by the DCI, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office continues.  If anyone has additional information pertaining to this investigation, please contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 961-1122.

Note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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