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Man identified in Tempe Town Lake death

Tucson resident reported missing Sunday

 by Nicole Saidi
 published on Friday, October 22, 2004


Tempe police said Thursday they had positively identified the man who was found dead in Tempe Town Lake as 26-year-old Eric Pelton, a Tucson resident.

Pelton's friends reported him missing on Sunday, said Sgt. Dan Masters, Tempe police spokesman.

Masters said Pelton likely was visiting Tempe with his friends to see a concert at the Marquee Theatre at 730 N. Mill Ave. on Saturday night, which is the last time he was seen alive.

An autopsy was conducted Thursday, but Pelton's cause of death won't be determined for several weeks because toxicology reports still have to be completed.

"There was no injury, so either he intentionally jumped into the lake, or he fell in. We may never know the final answer," Masters said.

No signs of foul play, injury or trauma were found on the body, and police believe the death was either an accidental drowning or suicide, Masters said.

"Homicide has been ruled out," Masters said.

Accounting freshman Torrye Conway, a coxswain for the ASU women's rowing club, was the first person to discover Pelton's body.

Conway said that as a coxswain, her job is to serve as a leader in the boat, while the coaches ride in motorized boats nearby.

Conway said she helped to steer the boat underneath a bridge by Rural Road when she saw Pelton's head and shoulder above the water.

"It's my first year rowing, and it's something I didn't expect," Conway said. "I had some issues going back out there today."

Kelly Vanek, ASU's head women's rowing coach, said she heard Conway's screams and alerted another coach, Lonya Bounds, to call Tempe police.

Jeff Wilkinson, ASU's head rowing coach, said he was at the front of another boat that just barely stopped before running into the body.

Vanek said rowers have to prepare themselves for the possible event that they might see such things in larger bodies of water, but she said finding a body in Tempe Town Lake was a big shock.

Vanek said she felt sorry for Pelton.

"The lake has always, to me, been a very peaceful place, and now I definitely look at it differently," Vanek said. "It definitely isn't a creepy situation but more of a sad one for [Pelton]."

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