MANKATO — A St. James man who died at a detoxification center in New Ulm last month hanged himself after telling staff he was going to take a midnight shower, an investigation has determined.
Brad Gertsema, 41, was taken to the Brown County Evaluation Center at about 8 p.m. April 8 after he was arrested in St. James for driving while intoxicated. Police officers were responding to a disturbance at a residence in the city involving Gertsema, but he had left the residence before police arrived. He was stopped in his vehicle a short time later, brought to the Watonwan County Jail and transferred to the detoxification center.
Gertsema’s blood-alcohol concentration was nearly .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08 for driving, when he was checked into the facility, a New Ulm Police Department report said. An autopsy later showed his BAC was about .10 when he died. The autopsy also determined Gertsema died as a result of suffocation by hanging.
The police investigation of Gertsema’s death is closed, but another state investigation is being completed by the Licensing Division of the Department of Human Services, said Patrice Vick, DHS communications manager.
That investigation will focus more on facility procedures, said Cmdr. Dave Borchert of the New Ulm Police Department.
Police were called to the Brown County Evaluation Center just before 1 a.m. April 9 for a report of a suicide, according to police reports. A staff member was attempting to revive Gertsema.
Staff told investigators Gertsema had gone to take a shower about 45 minutes before the 911 call was made. One of the detoxification center’s employees said she passed the shower room at least twice Gertsema was inside. She said she assumed he was taking a long shower because she heard singing and water running.
Another staff member used a screwdriver to open the shower room door after he knocked and didn’t receive a response. That’s when Gertsema was found hanging from a bed sheet that had been tide to a steel support beam above a ceiling tile.
Toxicology tests showed Gertsema also had small amounts of a anti-depressant medication and a prescription muscle relaxant in his system.