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Death of Shane ToddFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shane Todd was an American engineer who died under disputed circumstances in Singapore in June 2012. Local authorities said Todd had committed suicide, but his parents believe he may actually have been murdered, possibly in connection with the work he had been doing at the Institute for Micro Electronics ("IME"), part of the Singaporean government-run Agency for Science, Technology and Research ("A*STAR") involving a gallium nitride-powered amplifying device for the Chinese telecom company Huawei.
The Todd family's suspicions of foul play stemmed from various pieces of circumstantial evidence. For instance, they alleged that police had failed to properly investigate the scene of the crime, that the police neglected to dust for fingerprints, that the suicide notes ostensibly left by Todd were out of character, that the crime scene did not match the description given by authorities, and that a pathologist in the United States found that his body showed evidence of a struggle, rather than a suicide.
In the months leading up to his death, Todd had told his family that he was increasingly anxious at work, and worried the project he was working on with an unnamed Chinese company may have been endangering U.S. national security. He had also told his family that he felt he was under threat because of his work with the Chinese.
Todd's death was the subject of major investigative reporting in February 2013 by the Financial Times newspaper. The article claimed that Singapore police had not properly investigated Todd's death, and also contained allegations that the IME was collaborating on a project with potential military implication with Huawei, a major Chinese electronics and telecommunications company that some governments, such as Australia and the USA, have identified as a security risk. Both Huaweiand A*STAR's IME institute subsequently denied that their work had progressed beyond the discussion stage, and police also defended their role in the investigation.
A different picture of Shane Todd's death emerged from a Coroner's Inquiry conducted over two weeks from 13–27 May 2013. Evidence was presented to show that multiple visits had been made to suicide websites from Shane Todd's laptop and that he had been prescribed anti-depressants by a psychiatrist. The finding by the Singapore government's forensic pathologis that no injuries to Shane Todd's body indicated he was garotted or had put up a struggle was corroborated by two independent Chief Medical Examiners from the US. No hacking attempts on Shane Todd's laptop to upload suicide notes were found. The Todds also appeared to have been caught out in an apparent untruth when an FBI report confirmed that a hard drive handed over to them by the Todds was the same one which the Singapore police had taken from the apartment and subsequently given to the Todds after they did not find suspicious material in it. It was not an unexpected discovery by Shane Todd's father, Mr Rick Todd, in the apartment.
Shane Todd had earned his bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering at theUniversity of Florida in 2003 and 2005, respectively. He then pursued doctoral studies at theUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, where he researched silicon-based transmission lines.Upon completion of his PhD in 2010, he took a job offer to work for IME.
During this assignment, he worked on a project involving a proposed cooperation between A*STAR's IME institute and Huawei Technology. A project proposal outline recovered from Shane Todd's external hard drive found in his apartment showed that there was a proposal for IME andHuawei to co-develop an amplifying device powered by gallium nitride (GaN). Such devices have both commercial as well as military applications. Shane's research in GaN also involved traveling to New Jersey to procure the equipment necessary to further the GaN research from Veeco, a US publicly listed technology company.
As Todd worked on GaN research, he became increasingly anxious about his role. In conversations with his family, he said that he was collaborating with a Chinese company, and was "being asked to do things" that made him uncomfortable. Namely, his mother said that "he felt he was being asked to compromise American security." On one occasion, Todd told his mother that if she didn't hear from him every week, she should contact the American embassy. He turned to religion, and was prescribed antidepressants to help cope with the stress.
In late February 2012, Todd decided to leave IME and return to the United States. He put in 60 days' notice, then decided to stay an additional 30 days. As his time at IME ran down, he was offered a job with Nuvotronics, an American research firm. Friends and co-workers recalled that he was upbeat on his final day of work at IME on Friday, June 22.
Shane Todd's girlfriend, Shirley Sarmiento, expected to hear from him on Friday or Saturday, but he did not respond to her messages. On Sunday, June 24, she went to his apartment. Finding the door unlocked, she entered, and discovered Todd's body hanging from a bathroom door. A chair was about five feet away. Sarmiento then contacted Todd's family in the United States to alert them to his death.
The police was quoted saying that Dr Shane Todd "drilled holes into his bathroom wall, bolted in a pulley, then slipped a black strap through the pulley and wrapped it around the toilet several times. He then tethered the strap to his neck and jumped from a chair." However, when Todd's family arrived at his apartment in Singapore after receiving news of his death, they noted that the scene was not as described: there were no holes in the marble walls of the bathroom, and neither were there bolts or screws. The location of the toilet was also not where the police report indicated it was. Furthermore, there were no signs of an investigation at the scene; police had not put up crime scene tape or dusted for fingerprints.
The Financial Times reported that Shane's home "looked like a snapshot of a man in the middle of a move". Before his death, Todd was in the middle of doing the laundry. He had packed boxes in preparation for his move back the United States, and had clean clothes folded on the couch. He was also apparently in the middle of trying to sell his furniture, and had been writing out price tags. His airline ticket back to the United States was on the table, but his laptop and phone had been taken away by the police.
Police found several suicide notes allegedly left by Todd, but his family and girlfriend told the Financial Times that they did not seem to be Shane's writing. In one note, he apologized for being a burden to his family, but his mother said he had never been a burden; he had excelled at everything, she said. Another note praised the management of IME. His girlfriend was incredulous, noting that Todd "hated his job." After his mother read the notes, she told the police detectives "My son might have killed himself, but he did not write this."
Employees at IME were reportedly told not to speak to reporters about Todd's death. However, one of Todd's colleagues did reach out to his parents, telling them "After collecting all information available, I cannot believe it is a suicide case. Actually, no one believes it...I truly hope that [the] FBIcan be involved and perform further investigation.”
The official autopsy report provided by Singapore policy said that Shane Todd's cause of death was "asphyxia due to hanging." But on his body, Todd's family found bruises on his hands and a bump on his forehead, neither of which was mentioned in the autopsy report. Suspecting foul play, they asked the mortuary to photograph Shane's body before burial, and send the photos to Dr. Edward Adelstein, a county-level deputy medical examiner in Missouri. Dr. Adelstein's initial theory was that Todd's wounds did not support the suicide hypothesis. Instead, it appeared Shane was involved in a fight with an attacker and died by "garrotting." The original pathologist in Singapore dismissed Dr. Adelstein's conclusions, stating that Dr Adelstein had not seen the body and had mistook the post-mortem pooling of blood in the hands for bruises.
The FBI offered assistance to authorities in Singapore to investigate Shane Todd's death, but their help was initially refused. On the 28th of Feb 2013, the Singapore Police Force requested help from the FBI on two specific areas regarding the case, namely (a) an external hard drive that contains some files related to a possible cooperation between Huawei and IME, and (b) medical records of Shane when he consulted a psychiatrist in 2002. This occurred after the Todd family did not respond to earlier requests by the Singapore Police Force to share potential evidence. The Todds had found a hard disk in Shane's room and hired a private forensic investigator to investigate its contents. The investigator noted that the disk was accessed 3 days after Shane's death, opened a copy of a file related to his work, then deleted the copy. The Todds refused to hand over to the Singapore Police directly and initially the FBI as well, stating: "It doesn't make sense for us to give information to the FBI until they're given full access to the investigation."  In particular, the Todds claim that the Singapore Police considered the death of Shane Todd as suicide a bit premature.
The Singapore Foreign Minister pledged that Singapore Police will share evidence with the FBI, but stopped short of agreeing to the Todds' request for FBI to lead the investigation. After the Todds turned the hard disk over to the FBI, the FBI issued a report on May 9 supporting the Singapore Police's claims that the hard disk was accessed by the police who were checking for evidence, and not some unknown third party. The report explained that the file in question was a temporary file that had been automatically created and deleted by the Microsoft software when the police investigator was accessing the hard disk. It also emerged that the hard drive was in fact handed over to the Todds by the Singapore police in the presence of US embassy staff, even though the Todds claimed to have found it themselves.
Publicity and response
A grassroots petition has been started on the White House website (whitehouse.gov) asking President Obama to direct the Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate, under the federal witness murder statute, whether Todd was killed to keep him from talking to U.S. authorities about his work with the Chinese.
Shane Todd's parents raised their concerns and questions to the US Embassy in Singapore, to the Singapore Police, to the Agency for Science, Technology and Research ("A*STAR") run IME institute, and also asked whether the FBI could join the investigation, which would require an agreement between the Singaporean and US governments. Shane Todd's parents have also been pushing for a congressional investigation into their son's death. Starting from the original Financial Times investigative report, they received publicity on their son's case from several major news outlets. Max Baucus, a Democratic Montana senator, and Frank Wolf, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Virginia, have both met with Shane's parents. Mr Baucus has brought the case to the attention of the White House.
The Senate Finance Committee, which Max Baucus  chairs, subsequently raised the issue surrounding Shane's death in face-to-face meetings with Singapore's U.S. Embassy staffers and Singaporean officials.
Singapore Coroner Inquiry
An inquiry was launched by Singaporean authorities into the cause of Todd's death on 13 May 2013. The Todd family may post relevant questions, through a counsel or by themselves to the witness about the investigation findings, and the forensic medical reports. The Todd family appointed 5 lawyers from three Singapore Law firms. They are : Gloria James and Amarjit Singh of M/s Gloria James-Civetta & Co, Steven Lam of JTJB Lawyers, Peter Ong and Foo Cheow Ming of M/s Peter Ong & Raymond Tan.
13 May, during the first day of the inquiry, the government's lawyer, Tai Wei Shyong, presented evidence that Shane Todd's laptop revealed he had accessed depression-related websites 19 times between 10 March 2012 and 23 May 2012. Todd had earlier consulted a psychiatrist and had been prescribed anti-depressants.
16 May, the 3rd day of the inquest, Senior consultant forensic pathologist Wee Keng Poh of the Health Sciences Authority, who supervised the post-mortem examination, refuted the October claim by Dr Edward Adelstein that Shane Todd had been garrotted and reiterated that evidence on the case showed that Shade Todd's death was caused by hanging. This conclusion was supported by two U.S.-based medial examiners who had reviewed the autopsy reports: David Fowler, chief medical examiner for the State of Maryland, and Valerie Josephine Rao, chief medical examiner of District 4 and part of District 3, Jacksonville, Florida.
20 May The deputy executive director of research at IME, Patrick Lo was asked if he tried to influence the testimonies given by his employees', based on a recording made during a briefing he gave them. Lo said his objective was to inform them of their obligation to tell the truth to the police, as well as the company's obligation of confidentiality to its clients, including Huawei. On the Todd's claims that Shane had been ordered to handcopy gallium nitride (GaN) recipes when Shane was sent to a US based vendor for training, Lo said that "such a formula would be "useless", because even one for a simple LED light would have some 6,000 entries, and it would not have been possible to handcopy without inaccuracies.". Lo also testfied that IME does not conduct any classified military research. Employees of IME also testified that although there were meetings between their company and Huawei, including one where Shane and senior employees of Huawei were involved, nothing had been finalized.
21st May, the 6th day of the inquest, Dr Adelstein, who told the inquiry that he wasn't a qualified forensic pathologist, retracted his previous claim that Shane Todd was garrotted after reviewing new medical evidence, and speculated instead that Shane Todd could have been disabled with a taser then killed with an armlock. His conclusions were based on reviewing photos of Todd's body and other circumstantial evidence. He also asserted that Shane was "a very dangerous person" to IME and Huawei Technologies, that "they had him killed" and well-trained "assassins" may have been involved, without offering evidence to support his claim. Shane Todd's parents walked out of the inquest after complaining about what they called the introduction of a surprise witness—Mr Luis Alejandro Andro Montes, who was an ex-colleague of Shane's. Although the witness was named on May 13, day 1 of the inquiry, Mr Luis had only arrived in Singapore on May 18, his written testimony was only taken on May 20 and subsequently made known to the courts and the Todds on the morning of 21 May . Mary Todd told reporters that they did not believe the testimony, and wanted time to investigate. Shane's father said “The prosecution brings forth witnesses at the last minute and we have no chance to question it. Basically we actually have lost faith in the process". The Todds also claimed that neither they nor Shane's girlfriend Shirley Sarmiento recognized Mr Luis.
22 May, chief medical examiners Dr David Fowler (Maryland) and Dr Valerie Josephine Rao (Florida) testified as independent experts and rejected Dr Adelstein's murder theory from the day before. Dr Fowler said that the marks on Shane's hands identified by Adelstin as bruises from a fight were actually "the most classical example of post-mortem lividities" in hanging cases and declared that "the cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging". Dr Rao agreed that there were no injuries indicative of a struggle and cited suicide as the cause of death. The Todds discharged their lawyers, saying that they "“no longer have confidence in the transparency and fairness of the system,” and will no longer participate in the inquiry, and "will return to the U.S. as soon as possible and turn to the court of public opinion for judgment on their belief that Mr. Todd was murdered.
23 May, Mr Montes testified that he had last seen Shane on 23 June 2012, which contradicted the Todds' claims that Shane had been killed before that date. He also contradicted the Todds' assertion that they did not know him, testifying that he had met them in their hotel room days after Shane's death, in the presence of other close friends of Shane's.
28 May Inquiry Ends.
The verdict on the inquiry is expected in July 2013.
- Bonner, Raymond; Spolar, Christine (15 February 2013). "Death in Singapore". The Financial Times. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Feng Zengkun (19 February 2013). Is it suicide or is it murder?. The Straits Times. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Spolar, Christine. (17 February 2013). Police defend probe into Singapore death. The Financial Times. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Reuters (February 18, 2013). "Huawei denies work in field linked to U.S. death in Singapore".
- Amir, Hussain. "No Doubt Todd Committed Suicide". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Feng, Zengkun. "Evidence Suggests Todd Could Have Hanged Himself". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Feng, Zengkun. "Investigators Shed Light on Mystery File on Hard Drive". Retrieved 1 June 2013.