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Dave bocks1

Dave Bocks

Real Name: David Anthony Bocks
Nicknames: Dave
Location: Fernald, Ohio
Date: June 19, 1984


Details: Thirty-nine-year-old Dave Bocks of Loveland, Ohio, worked as a pipefitter at the 1,050-acre Feed Materials Production Center in the small community of Fernald, Ohio. The facility was run by a private company called National Lead of Ohio, or N.L.O. Fernald and the facility lie in the midst of farm country, twenty miles northwest of Cincinnati.
For many years, Fernald’s main employer was the facility. The casual observer would never guess that the facility and N.L.O. were, in fact, owned by the Department of Energy. From 1953 to 1989, it was one of the few facilities in the United States that secretly processed high-grade uranium for use in nuclear weapons.
Former employee Harry Easterling says that when he was hired there, he was told that it was a low-level radiation plant, that he did not have anything to worry about, and that there was nothing there that would “bother” him. He was also told not to tell anybody about what he was doing there and that “everything would be fine.” However, conditions in the facility were anything but fine.
In fall 1984, N.L.O. was rocked by a scandal of major proportions when an accident at the facility allowed a massive dose of radioactive smoke to escape into the atmosphere. An investigation later revealed that, over the years, the facility had released more than 200 tons of radioactive dust particles into the air and local water sources. Some said that the facility was, in essence, the third largest nuclear waste dump in the United States.
It was later revealed that the government officials who oversaw the facility knew about these issues but did nothing to prevent or fix them. They also reportedly lied to the employees and local residents about health risks from the facility. One employee, brought in to oversee safety there, found several serious issues. He said that half of the facility’s routine maintenance operations were “terribly inadequate.” Many of the managers did not seem to take his concerns seriously.
Investigative reporter D.C. Cole has researched N.L.O. and the facility for several years. He says that the environmental disaster was just one thing. He thinks that if someone did a survey around the Fernald community, they would find that very few people trust the government now. For the people of Fernald, the disastrous accident followed on the heels of another disturbing controversy involving N.L.O.
A few months earlier, in June 1984, Dave had disappeared while on the job. Though his body was never found, some of his personal effects were, and he was presumed dead. After the accident, his case took on a sinister new dimension. He had worked at the facility for three years, and all evidence indicates that he died a horrible, gruesome death there. The official ruling by the police and the company was that no foul play was involved. But his friends and family are convinced that he was murdered, and they will not rest until they learn how he died, and who was responsible.
Dave was born in Staten Island, New York, in 1944. When he was a child, he and his family moved to Ohio. In 1966, he married Carline Noggler. The couple had two sons, Tony and Matt, and a daughter, Casey. In 1979, they divorced, yet Dave remained devoted to Carline and their children. In 1981, he was hired by N.L.O. as a pipefitter in the facility’s maintenance department. He quickly earned the trust and respect of his coworkers. Casey says he was a great father and would do anything for them. She says he was “kind as can be,” loved his children, and did his job well.
Dave worked the graveyard shift (midnight to 8:30am) at the facility. Monday, June 18, 1984, began like any other evening for him. At 11pm, he met his rideshare partner, Harry Easterling, in the parking lot of a local White Castle restaurant. On that night, Harry drove them in his truck to the facility. Harry says they had a little conversation along the way. Dave talked about his vacation with his children and said that he had bought a new lunchbox for work. Harry says everything seemed normal.
Dave’s primary responsibilities at the facility were to inspect and maintain equipment in all of its plants. This included making sure that the safety pumps and dust collectors used in the uranium processing were in proper working order. Since the facility was thirty years old, much of the equipment needed maintenance.
Harry says that Dave was a fairly quiet guy, but if they worked on a job together, he would make sure to tell Harry to be careful if they were working with something dangerous and/or radioactive. He tried to help Harry out as much as he could because he had been there longer.
Only the maintenance crew and security personnel were on duty during the graveyard shift. The production lines were shut down. Once Dave and Harry arrived at the facility at around 11:25pm, they dropped off their personal belongings in the storage area, changed into their work clothes, and stepped through a sanitizing shower.
At midnight, Dave and Harry reported to the maintenance room for their work assignments. On that night, Dave was assigned to look at the pump in Plant 8. His supervisor, Charlie Shouse, told him to talk to another coworker about the exact pump he needed to look at. Harry says it was just like any other night. Dave opened his toolbox, left his keys in the padlock, and laid the lock and the keys on top of the toolbox.
Harry says that Dave went to work in Plant 8 while he worked on a job in another plant in the facility. At around 4am, Dave and Shouse were seen in a parked pickup truck by another employee. The witness said that Dave appeared to be having a serious discussion with Shouse, but he could not determine what they were talking about. Oddly, the windows of the truck were rolled up, despite the fact that it was a hot, humid night.
Shortly afterwards, Dave and Harry went on their lunch break. At 4:46am, they clocked back in and went their separate ways. About fifteen minutes later, at 5am, the same witness who saw Dave in the truck ran into him on the facility grounds. He told Dave he could help him with his work if he needed it. Dave responded, “Oh, okay, no problem.”
The witness was struck by the fact that Dave was walking towards Plant 4, not Plant 8, where he had been assigned. Shortly afterwards, Shouse ran into Dave in Plant 4 and talked to him for about ten minutes. They then parted ways. It was the last time Dave was seen alive.
Later that morning, Harry became suspicious about Dave’s absence. He says that at approximately 7am, they had a safety meeting in a conference room in Plant 4. Dave did not show up for it. After it was over, Harry went to the maintenance room and put his tools away. He noticed that Dave’s toolbox was still open, with the keys and lock still inside.
Harry figured that Dave was working overtime. He went and made a few phone calls, but he was unable to locate Dave. He had an appointment after work and did not want to be late for it. So he decided to leave Dave a note, saying he would come back later. But when he returned, Dave was still not there. He told the security guard that Dave had not come out, he was going home, and he would meet Dave the next night at the restaurant. He also left another note: “Dave: Waited till 10:45, finally went home, sorry.”
At around 7:30am that same morning, a furnace operator in Plant 6 notified his supervisor that the molten salt in the furnace and the furnace’s lid were covered with a strange, black, sticky residue. The operator also detected an unusual odor. The supervisor was not concerned and told him to keep working. The operator, however, was insistent that something was inside it. He said whatever it was, “it kind of looked like a leg.” The supervisor apparently found nothing wrong and told the operator to go back to work.
At 11pm that night, Harry arrived at the restaurant to meet Dave as usual. He had not heard about what happened in Plant 6. It was Dave’s turn to drive, and his car was already there. Harry says that was not out of the ordinary because Dave would normally park his car and then go into the restaurant to get something to eat or take for lunch the next day. When Harry leaned up against Dave’s car, he noticed that the fender was still cold. He reached over, touched the hood, and noticed that it was still cold as well.
Harry began to suspect that something was wrong. When he arrived at the facility, he reported Dave missing, and had a security guard pry open Dave’s locker. Inside were the clothes Dave was wearing the night before. A search of the facility was then conducted. However, no trace of him was found. Company officials then called the police.
It was soon discovered that Dave had never clocked out that morning. Casey says that she and the family were told on Tuesday night that he was missing. On Wednesday, Carline tried to contact N.L.O. and the facility to find out more information. They told her that they could not give her any information because they did not know anything. But inside the facility, an investigation was confirming the worst.
It was learned that at 5:10am on the morning of Dave’s disappearance (around the time he was last seen), the temperature in the furnace in Plant 6, which was kept at a constant 1,350 degrees, had momentarily dipped 28 degrees twice, suggesting that something foreign had been dumped into it. An engineer noted that the time printed on the temperature readouts was about ten minutes fast, meaning that the temperature drop occurred closer to 5am. A worker had also found what appeared to be a piece of bone on the lip of the furnace.
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department was called in, and at 3pm on Wednesday, the furnace was shut down. The investigators had to wait three days for the molten liquid inside the furnace to cool. Then, employees sifted through the waste material, searching for some kind of evidence. At one point, they found a set of keys. According to retired Chief Deputy Sheriff Victor Carrelli, the keys belonged to Dave’s car and three of his padlocks. Another key was believed to belong to his house; however, it was bent and in bad shape, so they were unable to prove that.
The conclusion was inescapable. Dave was almost certainly dead. But the news left Harry dumbfounded. He claims that Dave’s keys were still in his toolbox at 7:30am, more than two hours after the gauge in Plant 6 registered the temperature drop.
Harry says that when he went into the maintenance room that morning, Dave’s keys were in the toolbox. When he left to go home, they were still in the box. When he came back that night, they were, again, still in the box. After Harry noticed the keys that night, one of the supervisors closed the toolbox, put the padlock on it, and took the keys out of the lock. After that point, Harry does not know what happened to the keys.
In addition to the keys, investigators uncovered a steel toe and eyelet from a boot, part of what they thought was an eyeglass frame, fragments of what they believed was Dave’s walkie-talkie, an alligator clip from a nametag, and a piece of stainless steel wire that was looped together in three oddly connected circles. Also recovered were several pieces of human bone. The official police investigation was unable to determine conclusively how Dave died. However, suicide was a distinct possibility.
Dave had a history of psychological problems and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He also suffered from hallucinations. It has been noted that people with schizophrenia have higher rates of suicide than those without it. During his marriage, he also had problems with alcohol. Around the time of his divorce, he apparently tried to take his own life. Shouse also told police that Dave seemed “despondent” that night.
Casey is certain that Dave did not commit suicide. She says there was no reason for him to do that. He was in perfect health, had recently remodeled his home, had purchased groceries and cigarettes for the week, was planning a vacation with her and Matt for the following summer to Florida, and had paid all of his bills for the month. She had visited him the weekend before his death, and everything seemed normal. He also had not had a breakdown or a suicide attempt since the divorce. His psychiatrist also believed he was not suicidal.
Former employee David Day says that based on everything he knows about Dave, his death, and the facility, he believes that Dave was probably lowered into the furnace. He believes that Dave was murdered. He cannot think of any other way it could have happened. He does not believe it could have been suicide or an accident.
An accident seems highly unlikely since the furnace is about four feet tall and the opening is on top. Dave would have had to climb a ladder and drop through a hole that was just nine inches by twenty-two inches (the rest of the furnace was covered with a heavy steel lid). The furnace is also not in the part of the facility where Dave would normally be working. Suicide also seems unlikely; doctors and scientists noted that Dave most likely would have died before he had the chance to maneuver his entire body through the hole.
On the night Dave died, he had been working in Plant 8. According to Cole, Plant 8 had released four times more radioactive contaminants into the environment than any other plant at the facility. Cole thinks that Dave was killed because he “knew something.” He thinks that Dave knew something about Plant 8, about the release of the radioactive contaminants, and the threat to public health and the environment. He says it is possible that Dave was a whistleblower or was going to be one.
According to his family and coworkers, Dave was a “stickler for the rules.” He had previously complained to Shouse about another employee sleeping on the job. Harry says that Dave knew about and often warned him about dangerous spots in the plants. His family believes he was going to be a whistleblower regarding the lax safety practices at the facility.
Cole believes that Dave was either shot or knocked unconscious. His killer(s) then took his body to Plant 6 and lowered him into the furnace using the looped wire. Cole is not sure if Dave was alive when he was put into the furnace. He hopes that Dave was not conscious. He cannot imagine a more horrible death than that. He believes Dave’s death was covered up by N.L.O. and the government. Dave’s family believes he was killed, cut in half, and then each half was placed in the furnace. They believe that this explains the two separate temperature drops.
Deputy Sheriff Carrelli says that they never developed any information indicating foul play in Dave’s case. He says they had that in the back of their minds, but no one ever gave them any indication or reason to believe that it occurred. Detective Pete Alderucci believes that Dave ran up the ladder and either jumped or dove into the small opening on the furnace. He says he does not believe homicide is “possible” in Dave’s case. He claims that if anyone else tried to put Dave’s body in the furnace, they would have “burned to death.”
Harry believes there are people who know what happened to Dave. However, he is not sure if these people would ever come forward or tell anyone about it. He believes they may fear for their lives. Casey says she still has days where she cannot believe Dave is gone. She is very angry about what happened. She says that his family loved him, and he loved them. And there was no reason for this to happen. They just want somebody to come forward and tell them any information he or she may have about the case.
In September 1984, Dave’s family tried to get him declared legally dead so that they could collect his estate. By that point, the police were no longer actively investigating the case. However, the coroner’s office never issued a death certificate because of the lack of physical remains. In March 1986, a probate court declared him legally dead.
There is a bitter final footnote to Dave’s death. Years after the fact, his family is still waiting to lay him to rest. In 1989, the facility was shut down, and his remains – a few bone fragments – are presently in a sealed drum on the closed plant site, too toxic to be buried in the ground.
Did Dave commit suicide? Or was he murdered to keep him from talking? Unless new evidence is brought to light, the investigation is officially closed. But his family and friends are convinced that someone, somewhere, has that evidence.
Suspects: One employee told police that he knew Dave’s death was a murder and that he even knew the identity of his killer. The employee said that Dave’s supervisor, Charles Shouse, “knew a lot more than what he [was] saying.” Another employee saw Dave and Shouse having a discussion in a vehicle at 4am that night. Shouse was reportedly the last person to see Dave alive.
According to his own statement, Shouse was talking to Dave around the time that the temperature drop in Plant 6 occurred. His story about that night differed from Harry’s. He told the police that Harry agreed with him about Dave seeming despondent, but Harry says that is not true. For reasons unknown, detectives never investigated him as a suspect. They also never asked for his whereabouts at the time Dave died.
Another potential suspect was the employee that Dave complained about shortly before he died, Earnie Gipson. Although Gipson was suspended on the night of Dave’s death, a coworker thought he saw Gipson’s motorcycle at the facility. Police went to his home and saw that the motorcycle was inoperable, so they dismissed the lead altogether. They never asked him about his whereabouts that night or checked to see if he had access to other transportation.
Several employees reported that drugs were sold at the facility. Casey says that Dave was against drugs. It was rumored that Dave may have stumbled on a drug deal and been killed.
Some believe that Dave was killed because he knew too much about the issues with the facility and was going to be a whistleblower.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the March 2, 1994 episode.
  • It was originally supposed to air in the season 5 finale on May 19, 1993, but was moved to the Fall 1993 season. It was then scheduled to air on November 10, 1993, but was again postponed. After that, it was scheduled to air on February 16, 1994, but was once again postponed. According to an NBC publicist, it was most likely moved because of its long runtime of sixteen minutes.
  • It was submitted to the show by Cole.
  • Cole learned about the case after writing a story about another worker who had died at N.L.O., Larry Hicks. He had died shortly after being accidentally doused with uranium particles. The company claimed his death was unrelated to the accident.
  • The employee who saw Dave talking to Shouse in the truck that night agreed to speak to the show on the phone, but declined to appear on camera.
  • Representatives from the Department of Energy and the current Hamilton County Sheriff’s administration (in 1994) refused to speak with the show.
  • It was also featured on “The Trail Went Cold” and "Accused" podcasts.
  • It has some similarities to the disappearance of Dale Kerstetter.
  • Some sources state: that a piece of bone was spotted floating in the furnace; that the temperature dip occurred at 5:15am; that the furnace temperature was kept at 1,300 degrees; and that Dave’s coworker was the last person to see him. The show incorrectly stated that June 18, 1984 was a Sunday.
  • Sadly, Dave’s brother, Peter, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking to work at a motel in Milford in January 1988. The driver was never found.

Results: Unsolved - Dave’s remains were later sent to a Nevada test site to be stored with other radioactive materials. Years after the Fernald facility was closed, the area was finally cleaned up and turned into a nature preserve. However, the site will never be clean enough for anyone to live there.
In 2013, a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that hourly workers at the facility had above-average cancer mortality rates in comparison to the rest of the United States. However, the tests only provided evidence for a connection between hourly workers and intestinal cancer.
In 2019, the “Accused” podcast investigated and profiled Dave’s case in its third season. It included new interviews with several witnesses, investigators, and experts; newly released documents; and testimony from civil trials about N.L.O.
Members of the podcast’s team did an experiment with a replica of the furnace. They concluded it was impossible for Dave to have entered the furnace the way detectives believed he did (by running up the ladder and jumping into the furnace’s hole). They also felt that someone of Dave’s size would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to force himself into the small hole.
The podcast’s team also felt that the original investigators did not look into potential suspects seriously. Two of the team members met with current Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office investigators to discuss their findings. The investigators felt “intrigued” by the information and stated they were willing to reopen the case.
Sadly, several of those close to the case have since passed away, including: Dave’s ex-wife, Carline; his brother, Paul; Deputy Sheriff Carrelli; D.C. Cole; and Harry Easterling.