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Coroner seeks public's help in death of ex-Vernon official

June 29, 2012 | 12:56 pm

Angel-Island

Officials investigating the death of a former top Vernon official whose body was found Thursday evening at a state park in the Bay Area are seeking the public’s help to determine how he died.

“We’re looking to talk to anyone who may have seen him on the island or could provide information about the circumstances that could have led to his death,” said Sgt. Keith Boyd with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division.

Eric T. Fresch, 58, was found by rangers around 6 p.m. at Angel Island State Park, which is in San Francisco Bay not far from Fresch's home in Tiburon.

Amy Brees, an Angel Island State Park superintendent, said rangers began searching for Fresch after receiving a call Thursday afternoon that he had been cycling on the island but never came home.

"He hadn't returned on the boat he was expected to return on," said Brees, adding that Fresch's body was found in the water near the shore.

The island features a mix of trails and terrain, including some cliffs. Water is accessible from various points all around the island.

Coroner’s officials said so far, there appeared to be no witnesses. The results of Fresch’s autopsy could be available within two to six weeks.

“The cause of death investigation is underway,” Boyd said.

He said the coroner’s office will investigate all the circumstances that could have led to the death, though they do not suspect foul play.

“It could have been a natural death, an accident where he fell and crashed or a suicide, where it was intentional on his behalf,” Boyd said.

Fresch's death came on the same day a state audit was released painting a dire picture of Vernon's finances. The report raised questions about the city's contracting and investment decisions during the time when Fresch was its top administrator. The auditor said her staff could not reach him for an interview despite a deposition subpoena and repeated attempts by process servers to track him down.

Last month, the California Public Employees Retirement System announced that it was slashing Fresch's pension after finding irregularities with it and those of other Vernon officials.

Fresch was widely viewed as the most powerful decision-maker in the city's government in recent years, and made as much as $1.6 million in 2008. He began advising Vernon as an outside attorney in the 1980s and in 2003 became city attorney. He was the city administrator from 2006 to 2009 and moved into a consultant role in 2009. Late last year, Vernon announced Fresch would end his service to the city in May.

The Legislature last year considered disincorporating Vernon after a series of corruption scandals. But the proposal failed after the city agreed to a series of reforms.

Anyone with information can call the Coroner’s Division: (415) 473-6043

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--Esmeralda Bermudez

Image: Angel Island State Park, where officials said the body of former top Vernon official Eric T. Fresch was found, shown in red. Credit: Google Maps

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