Medical examiner confirms body found in river is Thomas Hecht

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Friday, March 23rd that the body police recovered from the Milwaukee River Thursday belongs to 28-year-old Thomas Hecht, a man many have been searching for since he disappeared after a pub crawl on Saturday, March 10th.

The Milwaukee Fire Department received a call Thursday morning around 11:10 a.m. about a body in the Milwaukee River.  They promptly recovered the body in cooperation with the Milwaukee Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. The body was fully clothed when it was recovered.

It took the medical examiner's office just one day after that to confirm, using dental records, that the body they found does belong to Thomas Hecht. The medical examiner's office says there was no trauma to the body, and Hecht's death has been ruled an accidental drowning. However, toxicology results will not be available for several weeks.

Hecht was last seen Saturday, March 10th at Rosie’s bar on Water St. while participating in the “Shamrock Shindig” pub crawl. Hecht’s friends and family members have been searching for him for almost two weeks.

According to the medical examiner's report, surveillance video reviewed by detectives showed Hecht outside Rosie's bar with friends just after 9:00 p.m. Saturday, March 10th. The video shows Hecht walk with that group northbound on Water Street. Two of the friends then hopped into a cab. Another video shows a person who is believed to be Hecht, walking alone, staggering back and forth.

It appears Hecht had his cell phone, wallet and money with him at the time of his death. Police records showed his cell phone was used just minutes after he left Water Street.

Hecht’s family posted this statement on late Wednesday night.

"Our hearts are breaking and our tears still flow. Tommy will forever occupy a special place in our lives. We know the sorrow we feel is shared by family members, his dear girlfriend Ali and her family, and Tommy’s and our close friends.

We want to thank the many who searched, posted, and prayed. The only word stronger than loss is love, and that has been demonstrated by all of you."

-Robert, Shelly, and Chloe

Nathan Phipps threw roses into the Milwaukee River Thursday – the place his friend, Hecht, was believed to have been found. It wasn’t the outcome Phipps was hoping for, after 12 days of trying to retrace his missing friend’s steps. “I think all of us had hoped to find him alive, and today is just unfortunately a sad day. It provides closure to all of us who were searching for him, and especially, the family,” Phipps said.

Tom Jaeck is a close friend of the Hecht family. For nearly two weeks, he’s come to Hecht’s condo to join others in raising awareness about his disappearance. Jaeck heard about the body’s discovery while at work. “I was in shock a little bit, but in some way, relieved that they found Tom. Real good family, good kid. This is the most incredible support system I have ever witnessed,” Jaeck said Thursday.

On a Facebook page dedicated to finding Tom, dozens wrote messages Thursday, including “your family is in my thoughts and prayers.”

Ondrea Adams was walking along the river during her lunch break Thursday. “We were just sitting there, and we see this little dart just flowing along the river. We didn’t know what it was. I’m not sure who called the police, but they just showed up from every direction,” Adams said.

Minutes later, Milwaukee Fire rescue teams arrived at the scene and went into the river. “We found the body floating north to south. Our rescue team got into the water, and two divers secured the body. It looked like he had on a green shirt,” one fire official said.

Previous stories:

March 12th: Milwaukee police search for 28-year-old missing man

March 14th: Search for Thomas Hecht focused on Milwaukee’s riverfront

March 18th: Those searching for Tom Hecht remain positive, optimistic