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Doubts raised in Monfore death

Dr. Espinola will conduct autopsy on the swimmer

Some friends of ocean swimmer Monte Monfore have expressed doubts that he died of a swimming accident on Rota.

As this developed, the Office of the Attorney General has approved the Department of Public Safety’s recommendation to do an autopsy on the body of 56-year-old Monfore.

Guam chief medical examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola will conduct the autopsy at the Commonwealth Health Center’s morgue on Saipan this Saturday, sources said.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero said yesterday that DPS Rota is the case agent in this case.

A family friend of the Monfore family in California, William Power, told Saipan Tribune that it’s their understanding that the swimmer was dressed and ready to board his plane to leave for Japan that same afternoon, Oct. 24, when he was found dead at Pinatang Park in Songsong.

“So I’m sure it wasn’t a swimming accident if he had his shoes on,” said Power in an email.

He claimed that Monfore had mentioned to some of his friends in California “something” about his stay on Rota.

Another longtime friend of Monfore, Philip Smucker, who said he is a writer and investigative reporter, also wrote and called Saipan Tribune, appealing to closely look at the case.

Smucker said he and Monfore’s family are all concerned about his death, as “a preponderance of evidence” points to his death not being accidental. He said a lot of details suggest that Monfore didn’t just drown in a pool after slipping. Monfore’s body was found in a swimming hole on Rota.

Smucker said he has known Monfore for 35 years. The two went to the University of California Berkeley together.

“He was a charitable person and he’s very likeable guy,” said Smucker.

He pointed out that Monfore never swims without his goggles. “So the idea that he was found…without his swimming goggles is very disturbing.”

Second, Monfore had already checked in at the Rota airport. “We don’t believe that at that time he would have gone swimming,” Smucker said.

Although Monfore may have gone to the Pinatang Park to meet a friend, Smucker believes Monfore could have been followed there.

He said they are very extremely interested in the nature of Monfore’s head wound. A physician who lives on Rota earlier said that Monfore had a “significant” open head injury.

Smucker said that Monfore’s father is a physician himself and is following closely the autopsy results.

Carl Hames, a high school classmate of Monfore, also expressed doubt in an email about Monfore’s death being accidental.

When the incident happened there was a storm passing near Guam and Rota.

Acting DPS spokesman Lt. Jason Tarkong said that Monfore was found floating face down in the swimming hole at Pinatang Park.

Tarkong said that a witness called 911 at 3pm, reporting that a Caucasian male had been found floating in the swimming hole of Pinatang Park.

Tarkong said that medics with the Rota Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and Rota police responded to Pinatang Park and attempted to revive Monfore with chest compressions.

The victim was then brought to the Rota Health Center, where a doctor pronounced him dead, Tarkong said. No other details were released.

It was Dr. Gregory Kotheimer, a physician at the Commonwealth Health Center, who declared Monfore dead on arrival at the Rota Health Center. Kotheimer was assigned to the Rota Health Center at that time.

Dr. Francois Claassens, a resident of Rota, told Saipan Tribune that Monfore had a “very significant” open head injury.

Claassens, however, stated that it is not clear whether Monfore’s injury was a result of him hitting his head on a rock while swimming or somebody else hitting him.

At the time, the waters were rough because of the storm.

Monfore made the 7-kilometer Lombok Straight Fight Hunger Swim in Indonesia as part of the May 13, 2007, World Food Program Global Walk the World, an event supporting hungry schoolchildren. From California, he reportedly resided in Bali, then settled alone on Rota six months ago.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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