Officials with the Fort Smith Police Department stand by the Arkansas Medical Examiner’s Office’s ruling on Josh Underwood’s death.
Underwood, 48, was found dead the morning of Dec. 31 in front of Supercuts, Suite 3 at 2700 Zero St. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Underwood died from extreme hypothermia.
Fort Smith police Cpl. Anthony Rice said officials with the Police Department have reason to believe that Underwood “made rounds to several bars” a“consumed an undetermined amount of alcohol” in the hours leading up to his death. He said officials within the Police Department are waiting for Underwood’s toxicology report.
Police found Underwood’s car in the 800 block of Garrison Avenue, nearly five miles from where his body was found.
Underwood’s mother, Anna Underwood, contacted the Times Record on Jan. 7 and told the newspaper that her son's phone, debit card and money clip were missing from his person. Rice said police do not know the whereabouts of Underwood’s phone and debit card.
Rice said officials believe Underwood spoke to Manuel Hernandez, 45, in a convenience store at the intersection of 31st and Zero streets prior to his death. He said officials believe Underwood gave Hernandez his bank card and that Hernandez later threw the card away, based on video surveillance and personal testimony from Hernandez.
Rice said Hernandez is not a suspect in Underwood’s death.
A photo taken by the Times Record at the Dec. 31 crime scene shows Underwood’s body with a gash across the right cheek and blood on the hands and pants. Though Rice said officials at the Police Department were unsure where the gash to Underwood’s face came from, he said he suspects the blood on his hands and pants are from impact with the front glass of the business and then with the pavement outside.
Rice said officials with the Police Department observed these impacts in a surveillance video that displayed the outside of the business.
“Unfortunately, if you fall down real hard and hit your head, if you’re still alive, there’s a good chance you’re going to bleed,” Rice said.
"If he was beaten, the Medical Examiner's report would have said his death was from blunt force trauma," Rice said.
Rice asks that anyone with additional information in regard to Underwood’s death call the Police Department at (479) 709-5100.
"Josh was a Christian who was baptized and saved," a statement released by Anna Underwood earlier last week states. "He leaned heavily on his faith and his early teachings of Christ and how to live and treat other people. I have received and always received overwhelming response of how loving, caring and kind Josh was and that he was always trying to make someone else feel better. From grade school, high school, college and work, neighbors all say the same ... 'he always took time to listen to me,' 'we don't know what we'll do without him,' 'we loved him,' 'he was like family to us,' 'he was so kind and caring.' His dad and I couldn't ask for a better son!"
Anna Underwood went on to say her son was known as a "motivator" to both her and co-workers despite his own personal struggles.
"We spoke daily," Anna Underwood wrote. "This is an awful, tragic thing, a terrible loss for us all. He was a grateful and thankful person. He loved life and people. His daughters were his treasures. He was a family man. He will be so missed."
Anna Underwood suspects foul play in her son's death, questioning why his cellphone and money clip were not on him when his body was found. She suggested that "someone took advantage of Josh at a convenient time for them ... He is with God now."
Times Record reporter John Lovett contributed to this report.