Law student drowning ruled accidental

District officials said Tuesday that they ruled the death of GW law student Chris Bartok an accidental drowning, more than two month after his body was found in the Potomac River.

A jogger discovered Bartok’s body Dec. 19 in the river, just south of Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge.

“There was no evidence that somebody pushed him in the water,” said Gertrude Juste, who investigated the case for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office.

Metropolitan Police officials said they never believed Bartok’s death was the result of foul play and that their investigation has been concluded.

“If something is ruled to be a homicide or foul play, we would continue our investigation,” said Officer Kenneth Bryson of MPD’s Office of Public Information. “If the ruling is suicide or an accident, we accept that ruling.”

MPD could not immediately rule out homicide because Bartok was discovered without his pants, shoes and wallet. Investigators later dismissed the possibility of foul play when the items were found intact in the brush near Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Avenue, where Bartok is believed to have fallen into the river.

The medical examiner’s office could not release details of the investigation, which included a blood-alcohol level test and a report detailing the physical condition of Bartok’s body.

While confirming that Bartok had alcohol in his system, Juste said, “His level of alcohol wouldn’t change the outcome.”

Juste said her office could not publish its findings until MPD officials indicated that they had gathered all possible evidence.

Preliminary results of an autopsy conducted several days after Bartok’s death indicated that he had drowned and that there was water in his sinus cavities and lungs, MPD officials said.

Christopher MacWilliams, an MPD detective who investigated Bartok’s death, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

On the night of his disappearance, Bartok, 26, of Morro Bay, Calif., had been celebrating the end of finals with friends at McFadden’s, a bar located on 24th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, MPD officials told The Hatchet last month.

He left alone before midnight and took his usual walking route to his home in Arlington, Va., said Bartok’s mother, Carol DiNolfo. Upon being told by his roommates Dec. 21 that her son had been missing for two days, DiNolfo filed a missing persons report with MPD.

Bartok completed only one semester at the Law School before his death. In 2002, he graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied sciences.

In the days after Bartok’s death, DiNolfo told The Hatchet that her son had been robbed and murdered. When her son’s personal items were located, DiNolfo said she concluded that the death was an accident and that her son was “probably a little too inebriated for his own good.”

She said in an interview last week that she believes Bartok removed his pants and shoes upon getting “sick” so he would not dirty them.

“I think the lesson to be learned from this,” DiNolfo said, “is that people should not let their friends, in a state of drunkenness, leave alone.”

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