Ron Rosenbaum

The Death of Theresa Duncan: News and Clues

Before trying to draw any conclusions here, are some further facts that have come to light in the wake of artist/blogger Theresa Duncan’s still unexplained suicide (see post below) on July 10 and the apparent suicide of her boyfriend jeremy Blake eight days later.

–The Suicide Notes:

The New York Daily New reports that when her boyfriend found her dead in their East Village apartment on July 10 he found a note. In a report headlined–again ambiguously–“Artist lost in surf likely killed self”, the News tells us Jeremy Blake, Theresa’s boyfriend “had suffered a devastating blow just eight days earlier, when he found his girlfriend of 12 years, filmmaker Theresa Duncan, 40, dead in the bedroom of their East Village apartment”

Here’s the key fact The Times didn’t have: “A bottle of pills and alcohol were found near Duncan’s body inside the E. 11th St. apartment. She left a suicide note saying that she was at peace with her decision and loved Blake and her family deeply, sources said.”

“Sources said”: one assumes these are cops or detectives. But the News adds something more: “The city medical examiner is waiting for tissue and toxicology test results to determine the cause of Duncan’s death.”

Assuming by “determine the cause” they mean what kind of pills she used tokill herself, not whether she killed herself, that still doesn’t explain the real cause.

As for the boyfriend’s death or disappearance The News also has another fact The Times did not: “A woman called cops after she watched the 6-foot-2 Blake walk into the ocean in Rockaway Parkway about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday,” eight days after her death.

The fact that “a woman” called in the 911 report is important I once had a friend who, in a moment of deep despondency, parked his car by a dock, left his clothes and wallet in it, to make it appear like suicide. And then just took off, disappeared. Faked his suicide. Until he showed up at my apartment and I talked him into going back to his family.

When I first read of the boyfriends’s disappearance/suicide it occurred to me that he could have been the one who called in a 911 report of someone fitting his description leaving his clothes behind and walking into the ocean and leaving his wallet behind, he then could have, for any number of reasons, disappeared rather than died.

Now that seems less likely. Unless he had the help of a woman. Which is what makes the surfacing of one of his ex-girlfriends in the case a little troubling.

–Enter the ex-girlfriend. She appears in what seems to be the first report of Theresa’s death, on the LA Observed blog of Kevin Roderick on Thursday July 19th:

Possible news on Theresa Duncan *
Kevin Roderick
Writer, filmmaker and perfume aficionado Theresa Duncan has not posted at her Venice-based blog, The Wit of the Staircase, since July 10. She gave no indication of taking a break, and now an Internet discussion forum has posted an unconfirmed report that Duncan killed herself last week in New York City, where she was making a film. From the same report, her partner of many years, artist Jeremy Blake, is missing off New York’s Rockaway Beach, where a man was seen going into the ocean Tuesday night. The news comes from Anya McCoy, a Florida perfumer who says she spoke with an ex-girlfriend of Blake. I can find no recent news reports tonight on Duncan in New York or her hometown of Detroit, so I’ll stress again that none of this is confirmed.

Now on in the Sunday July 22 New York Post we learn something about the second suicide note, the one found withthe wallet and clothes of the boyfriend Jeremy Blake as he apparently walked into the sea to kill himself although the News reports a search including copters has not spotted a body yet:

“In the short note, Blake said he was ‘despondent’ over the July 10 pill overdose death of his filmmaker girlfriend…He wrote that he could not imagine living without her by his side.”

Well I wish the use of the word “despondent” didn’t raise a flag to me. If you’re truly despondent do you check out of life saying I’m really really “despondent”?

–The Sylvia Plath Connection

A commenter to the last post offered several possible new avenues to approach the case with , so I’m going to reprint it here. The connection to Theresa Duncan’s fairly recent post on the suicide of another 40 year old woman artist, a poet, and the poet’s connection to Sylvia Plath (follow the Boston Globelink) is certainly suggestive:

I had never heard of Theresa Duncan, but I have been reading her blog off and on all day. I posted this on my own blog…

I also noticed this entry on “The Wit” about a 40-yr old brilliant poetry professor, Sarah Hannah, who recently committed suicide…

Did this death trigger something?

There are also reports calling her Blake’s ex-girlfriend….

And the News has this quote from “a friend of the couple who “said he had a hard time imagining the two committing suicide. ‘Suicide would never be on their to-do list,’ he said. ‘The narrrative of the wallet and the clothes under the boardwalk, it’s like somebody writing a cliche, it’s not them. It would be embarrassing to them. It seems too calculated for the most uncalculated people. I can see some teenager in Idaho who listens to Marilyn Manson doing this, but not them.”

Here by the way is Theresa’s haunting last post:

Monday, July 09, 2007
Goodnight, Children, We’re In The Arms Of The Great Lover

“Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets….”

~Rupert Brooke, The Great Lover

See you in the a.m.

Monday, July 09, 2007 in The Wit Of The Staircase | Permalink

I should note more disturbing stuff has come up I’m trying to figure out how to evaluate.