Part IV: Crime Victim Sgt. Patrick Rust

More on this case...
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Case Summary

On March 16, 2007 at about 1 am, US Army Sergeant Patrick Rust, who had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, left a bar called Clueless in Watertown, NY. Rust had been drinking with friends at the establishment for several hours, was apparently intoxicated, and the bartender refused to serve him any more.

After leaving the bar, investigators reported that Rust's phone was used twice to call one of the friends he had talked with that night/morning. Police have been unable to find anyone who saw him alive again.

Rust did not show-up for work at Fort Drum that next morning and Rust's mother, his roommate, and his supervisor subsequently reported him missing.

Six months later, Rust's skeletal remains were found in a field six miles from the bar. An autopsy was inconclusive as to a cause of death.

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In the last post, I started on two aspects of the Rust case that I wanted to discuss further.

The first was:

The "Clueless" bar is known as an alternative lifestyle or gay (evidently not exclusively lesbian/gay though) bar.

Now the second.

According to what was reported, at least one of Sgt. Rust's companions at the bar indicated that Rust was trying to obtain cocaine.

Military investigators interviewed Rust's companion, his roommate, as well as persons gleaned from his cell phone records, and found that Rust had attempted to contact people outside his circle of friends. 

One individual left a message stating that he could not provide what (not being specific) Rust was requested, but offered another name for Rust to contact.

So, if a person was trying to purchase cocaine, it would likely put him/her in contact with strangers; strangers who could be violent.

An attempted buy, may also lead a person to a secluded place, or to a private place that the person would not usually go without concern for personal safety.

Related to the potential drug angle in this case, is a comment made by the roommate to investigators. 

He believed Sgt. Rust had over $20,000+ in his bank account.  The night Rust went missing, his roommate indicated that Rust withdrew about $200 from an ATM.

If someone is believed to have lots of cash in a bank account and is in contact with potentially violent criminals with the intent of purchasing drugs,  it is possible that the sellers may transform into armed robbers. 

In considering this transformation--despite some cash being recovered with Mr. Rust's remains, I don't believe a robbery motive can be completed eliminated.

Consider this for instance...

A person meets individuals they don't know to purchase cocaine.  The sellers have their sights set on scoring $20,000+ instead, but for some reason their planned robbery fails and they murder the buyer.

In haste, the sellers dump the victim's body in a field; unconcerned with the three or four $20 bills in his wallet.

In sum, robbery was the initial motive, but cash was not removed from the victim prior to dumping the body.

I'll finish this case next time with what is apparently a key element as to why the case went cold.

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More information on this case can be found at Patrickrust.com or my other posts on Sgt. Rust are here

20 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

If they were strangers, how would they have known the value of his bank account?

Not that that eliminates the possibility of robbery. Nor does the cash left at the scene prove anything.

This sounds like an interesting case.

Stephanie Faris said...

Oh what people do in the name of acquiring drugs. I agree with what Matthew said, though. If it were a robbery, the person would have had to know the guy had money...and would have expected that person would have cash on him. It doesn't make sense...robbery would mean the person would have taken something.

BobKat said...

I'm interested in the next post, esp., as I don't see how this case could have gone cold.

My opinion: robbery was not the motive. Drugs weren't the motive, though they are most likely important in the investigation, or should be. The Clueless Bar, I looked it up, is a 3.5 out 5 star restaurant. The following, a non-gay man who posted at Yahoo's Link to the bar, also from the military, said this:

"I was stationed at Drum from 2000-2003 and went to Clueless. I was dragged by a female friend who told me Clueless has music that I would like. I went in and realized that maybe I didnt belong there. Boy was I wrong."

He goes on to say how "friendly the owner and everyone was. So it doesn't sound like a "seedy place".

That Sgt Rust was with "friends" and he alone was looking for cocaine, seems odd. That he evidently was proactively searching is key. How was he searching? Friend, of a friend of "try this person". Doing that alone is dangerous, to say the least. But the trail Sgt Rust must have left is enormous.

Friends, cell-phones, lots of witnesses, as to his condition, information - did he use the bathroom to make calls, the bar's phone, a friend's??

Unless his "friends" weren't really friends, I doubt they were clueless as to what his plans were, and where he was going.

The other odd thing about this - drug dealers want money. I know this for a fact. $1, $100, all the same - it'll get you killed when you're alone and not with someone who who is a friend who knows the stranger. Most people I knew wouldn't take the risk, but Sgt Rust was drunk, and possibly, w PTSD.

So why was he found with 20's on his person? Seeking drugs may have been involved in his death, but it wasn't the motive behind his death.

He was drunk, he wasn't smart, and said something or hit on someone he shouldn't have. But it all seems traceable.

Until next week, I'll have to wait...

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Hmm...interesting concept, you would think if they were desperate enough to try to rob something then to kill him that they'd remember to take the $$$!

J. J. in Phila said...

I doubt if the bank would permit that amount of money to be withdrawn in cash. Federal law prohibits the possession, in most cases, above $10,000 in cash.

J. J. in Phila said...

I doubt if the bank would permit that amount to be withdrawn in cash.

Federal law prohibits private individuals (with a few exceptions) from having more than $10,000 in cash.

This does not look like a large drug purchase.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Agree with the limit on ATM withdrawal...

In any case, this is very sad. That he might have been gay, might have been buying small amount of illegal drugs, might have ...

He is now lost to his family forever.

Maxi said...

This is what you call a real life mystery.

I'm with Matthew, how would strangers know how much Sgt. Rush had in the bank?

Also, they probably used drugs and would not have left any money behind.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks all for the thoughtful comments and perspectives.

Thanks to BobKat for finding some of the local perspective on the establishment in question.

It doesn't sound like I was too convincing with my argument as to the plausibility of robbery.

With robbery, authorities have certainly discounted it as a theory since the victim's wallet was recovered at the scene with money in it. That would discount "stranger" robbery.

I still believe that one cannot eliminate the victim as a target of robbery as part of an inside information since it was known that he had a large sum of money in his bank accounts.

JJ's observation is important that their are restrictions in place on withdrawing funds, but Sgt. Rust could have still been targeted by those posing to be sellers of narcotics but instead intended to rob him--information gleaned either from someone who knew him or a friend of a friend of a friend.

It is also important to note that such crimes involved robbery are often not well planned and executed by folks not high in IQ. I still believe that targeting the victim because of the potential take, and then after acting, realizing the problems in acquiring the funds, could have led to the victim's death.

BobKat said...

Why a case goes "cold"...

Investigators - my opinion spend too much time on irrelevant data! In this case, $20, 000 in the bank.

We're in tough times, but in 2007 the economy was just going into recession, the bubble was bursting, but hadn't been felt.

I'm sure, lots of people have $20,000 or more in the bank... especially back then. And as J.J. made clear, you don't draw 20 grand out of an ATM.

IF Sgt. Rust was seeking cocaine, and desperate enough to deal with people he didn't know, nor that his friends even knew, he put himself in serious risk.

The whole problem with his death, is that he had enough money, say $100 to purchase a small amount of cocaine which was still on his person when he was found in that field. He didn't complete a "buy".

What he did was he met with someone, or some persons and said the wrong thing. Nothing to do with $$$.

To focus on money in this case is a red herring. People who deal in coke, in general, are not your friendly neighborhood, laid-back, pot dealers. They are as addicted to selling/scoring their shit as the addict seeking it.

Not to get me wrong - people who deal in coke usually, though not always, deal in hard drugs also... meth, heroin, Oxycontin.

There is a difference between your friendly neighborhood pot dealer who may sell coke if they have it, and the serious coke dealer in that unlike cannabis; coke, meth, heroin are physically, very addictive... and the users are often desperate, which the hardened drug dealer takes advantage of, for the money.

If Sgt. Rust ended the morning meeting with alleged drug dealers, to get some coke, he may have been in a very dark world... one where being in the military wouldn't matter, coming off as untrustworthy, possibly a NARC would get him killed, as would, if he was naive, with any money.

Today is not your "organized" 1920's rum running speak-easy's... but rather, today is an underworld of unscrupulous, opportunistic, paranoid thugs, aka, business-folk.

Unless you're with someone who knows these people, your life is worth nothing. Your money is worth nothing. But they won't leave it behind!!!

Sgt. met with "people" and said the wrong thing... if a drug buy had been going on they would have known he had money, and it would not have been on his person when he was found. Instead, in all likelihood he met with someone and even before a drug deal took place he said the wrong thing.

Or, he met a lone wolf at the bar, arranged to meet him later, and the wolf murdered him.

All told, Sgt. Rust would have left lots of evidence behind as to what he was doing, what his plans were... his "friends" would have known a lot about what his plans were unless he didn't trust them, but if he didn't trust them, how did they know he was trying to score coke??? They also would have known if he was gay meeting up with stranger he met at the bar.

To me, this case is a Slamdunk! Nothing to do with money... everything to do with people keeping quiet, and covering their own ass.

J. J. in Phila said...

If I understand correctly, this case might not even be a crime.


Sgt. Rusk was not properly dressed on a very could night. If he drunk, he could have passed out. If just tipsy, he might have fallen, knocked himself out and died of exposure.

I doubt that this was a robbery, because he had money on him.

I agree with BobKat that his bank account is irrelevant. His base salary was about $24 K per year, and he should have gotten another $2-4 K in food/housing allowances. A man in his circumstances, no family, being able to shop at a lower priced PX, not having to pay for benefits, and being able to use a service members' saving account (which yields 10% interest), and probably had combat pay at some point, would easily acquire $20 K in five years.

I think it a huge leap to go from **Sgt Rust had $20 in the bank** to **Sgt Rust was buying/planning to buy drugs.**

BobKat said...

Pure speculation to begin with that $20K in the bank or robbery was the motive. Buying cocaine, that has basis in reality... however he apparently failed to procure the cocaine, as it was apparently not found on his person.

J.J. brings up his dress in relationship to the weather again, as I did in the very beginning. I think it was you J.J. that originally threw back the idea being in the military he was more capable of walking 6 miles in that kind of weather and surviving.

Whoever said that I agree.

However... alcohol is not good in the blood when in cold temps... deludes the person into thinking they are not cold, when the body is cold. That being said, in my 20's I think I could have walked 6 miles in the cold, but it's the return trip that would have caused concern. So why was he found where he was?

Maybe no crime was involved, as J.J. suggests. He walked 6 miles, unable to score any cocaine and clear his head, got tired and laid down in the field. No cause of trauma would support that theory.

Then again... we don't know for a fact that he walked those 6 miles, do we? To me that is the question... if he was driven there, and he said "let me out here", then he would have been able to walk the 6 return miles. Still no crime there.

Maybe he did score some cocaine... maybe they stopped where he was found and he tried some. Maybe then he felt like walking back. Maybe, just speculating, it was a shock to his system... don't know he he used in Afghanistan... if he did well my theory wouldn't have merit, but if he didn't, after several months to over a year he may have had a heart-attack. Not unknown with cocaine. The people if there were any that drove him there may not have even known, until after the fact.

J.J. may be right... there may have been no crime involved, and maybe that's why the case went cold.

J. J. in Phila said...

BobKat, I'm 48, disabled, with a complete lack of military training, and wouldn't hesitate to walk 2 miles on a cold night.

If I was a 26 year old combat veteran, in good shape, a six mile walk would be a short stroll.

I would like to know the direction from the bar to where his body was found. Was is, generally on his way home.

I do, however, think this was not robbery. Even if someone hit him over the head, how would he know he killed Sgt. Rust? Why not still take his money?

I certainly wouldn't rule out murder at this point. I would be trying to find other people in the bar that night. Did it take credit cards?

BobKat said...

I was responding in part to your response, you begin with: "If I understand correctly, this case might not even be a crime."

And I hadn't considered that and what else you said (though your sp. was not great that day), I got your point.

No comment on your being disabled. Other than I have my own disabilities. You communicate well, which to me counts for a lot.

I too want to know what direction Sgt. Rust walked after leaving the bar, as well as could he have gotten a ride after leaving the bar?

At 26, I wasn't a combat war veteran, but I was in very good shape. I could have walked 10 miles in very cold weather... I knew a guy back then in his mid-20's, wore a t-shirt in the dead of Winter. I expect he could have walked 5 miles at least and survived.

Alcohol is not, or I should say, alcohol is known to cause premature death during very cold conditions. Cocaine is known to cause heart-attacks. Just as "robbery" is cause to not have money on self.

So, was he walking, driving, how exactly did he get where he was going? Could he, as you suggest have been walking home? What do cell-phone records or other records show about who he spoke with, what he had planned? What happened in the 3 and 1/2 star bar and after he left the bar at 1AM?

Slamdunk said...

Sorry I have not chimed in more often on your discussion.

This map from the family's site should help with some of your questions: here or at http://www.patrickrust.com/map .

From what has been disclosed, the recovery site is several miles away from where Sgt. Rust was living.

My intent with the robbery angle was not to argue it as a probability, but more as a possibility--certainly one that cannot be ignored considering the victim had what would be considered a large sum of money in the bank.

Good point with the credit cards JJ. The info released limited discussions to the bartender and the friends Sgt. Rust met that night--not sure the extent that police talked with others at the tavern.

Adding to BobKat's desire to focus on what happened after 1 am when the Sgt. left the bar, it was reported that he left the bar through a delivery door instead of the customer door that leads to the parking lot. Was it simply a confused intoxicated man seeing a door and leaving or was there a motivation to leave through a delivery door?

Thanks again for the discussion.

J. J. in Phila said...

The map is useful. If that was his apartment, he was moving away from it, if the body wasn't dumped there. Even very drunk, it would unlikely he got confused and walked in the wrong direction.

There are a lot of questions I'd like to know.

1. What was Sgt. Rust's sobriety state when he left?

2. Was there someone in that area he might want to visit?

3. Were there other bars that he visited (bar hopping)?

4. Where was the roomate?

5. Was he seen with anyone in the bar, i.e. talking up a girl (or guy)?

J. J. in Phila said...

I read some of the press on the case.

Sgt. Rust had expressed an interest in buying cocaine, according to some of the people he was with. He also was intoxicated when he left.

BobKat said...

Thanks Slam, for that "awe and shock" info... "He left the bar from the delivery door..."???

Never in all my years a a cool dude have I ever left, or known anyone to leave by the bar's delivery door.

J.J. has good questions too. Since I have dial-up internet, perusing the map is a daunting task, but since I know where the bar is compared to the most distant marker in a field way off track... i have to say, only one thing comes to mind. He was dumped there, he didn't walk.

J. J. in Phila said...

In looking at the newspaper accounts, these points stuck out:

1. Sgt. Rust's companions said he was a buzzed when they arrived and very drunk when they separated.

2. If he was walking home, he was walking in the opposite direction from both his apartment and the base. He would have been walking out of a populated area, so he probably would have noticed, even if very drunk.

3. He spoke about purchasing cocaine, but didn't have any.

4. Sgt. Rust had made a cash purchase (at Best Buy) and dinner at a Wendy's. Then he withdrew $100.00 to $300.00 in cash (possibly from two accounts) from an ATM. $80.00 was found on the body.

The money might be the key. If it was closer to $300, where did the $220.00 go?

DETROIT said...

Sergeant Rust is a Smiley face victim killed the day before a Holiday just as all Michigan OCCK victims were. the Smiley faced Killer is gary McNeil who thinks he is 2nd ZODIAC. Original Zodiac name was cop also named Sergeant RUST. Gary`s bisexual and mainly gay. A gay bar would be where he`d be and he has friends who sell drugs. See Toix Jonbenet Ramsey Forum Smiley face killer thread.