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AP Exclusive: Documents detail ex-QB's final days

Wednesday - 7/31/2013, 2:05pm  ET

FILE - In this May 29, 2008 file photo, Denver Broncos backup quarterback Cullen Finnerty stretches at the team's headquarters in Denver. Newly released investigative reports provide a detailed look at the final days of Finnerty, a former record-setting quarterback who died two months ago while on a holiday weekend trip in rural Michigan. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A former Division II college football star who disappeared in the Michigan wilderness during an impromptu late-evening fishing trip had a number of alcoholic drinks on the day he died and told relatives in two final frantic phone calls that he believed he was being followed, according to police reports.

Jennifer Finnerty told investigators that it wasn't the first time her husband, Cullen Finnerty, had a "paranoid" episode. Eighteen months earlier, she said, he drove 150 miles to Grand Rapids from Detroit because he feared the FBI was following him.

Finnerty's final days are detailed in police reports released to The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.

What the 116 pages don't reveal, however, is the answer that still haunts his family: What killed the record-setting Grand Valley State signal-caller, one of the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, during an ill-fated trip with his in-laws over Memorial Day weekend?

The autopsy, conducted in Grand Rapids the morning after Finnerty's body was found in the woods 65 miles north, found a "slightly enlarged heart and slightly cloudy lungs," but "no trauma to the body at all," according to a report prepared by a Lake County sheriff's deputy.

Undersheriff Dennis Robinson said this week his department still is awaiting toxicology results from the Kent County medical examiner's office. Asked about the toxicology report, Kent County ME's spokeswoman Carmen Perez referred calls to Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital, where the autopsy was conducted. Messages left there were not returned.

Finnerty's father, Tim, said he is frustrated by not knowing what ended his son's life and with the steady flow of questions on the subject from reporters.

"He died more than two months ago. They still don't know why he died, (and) it's constantly in our face," Tim Finnerty said. "Everybody wants to know. It's a very sensitive family matter."

Tim Finnerty was among those who raced to rural Webber Township after his son went missing the night of Sunday, May 26.

In the two brief phone conversations with family members, Cullen Finnerty sounded disoriented and complained of being tailed.

"I think a couple of guys are following me," Finnerty told his brother-in-law, Matt Brink, in a phone conversation Brink recounted for investigators. Finnerty also told Brink that things were "getting a little rough."

Jennifer Finnerty told police her husband called her around the same time.

Cullen Finnerty called out, "Hey, are you there?" three times, she said. He said he was talking to "that guy" and believed someone was 20 feet behind him.

She heard rustling noises on the other end of the line and asked her husband what he was doing. Finnerty told his wife that he was taking off his clothes. She told him to stay put, and the call was disconnected.

Jennifer Finnerty said she then sent her husband a text message that instructed him not to move, because her brother and father were coming to pick him up.

It wasn't the first time Cullen Finnerty had a "paranoid" episode, his wife told investigators.

Instead of driving home from Detroit a year-and-a-half earlier, he took off for Grand Rapids in western Michigan due to fears the FBI would follow him, she said. According to Jennifer Finnerty, her husband remained in a state of panic for four to five days.

Cullen Finnerty had a past addiction to painkillers, said his wife, who believed a pill he was given by an acquaintance may have caused the paranoia that spurred his trip to Grand Rapids.

He had not taken any drugs since spending time in a rehabilitation center more than a year earlier, and Jennifer Finnerty told police she could not imagine him going down that road again.

On the day of his disappearance, Cullen Finnerty awoke at 6 a.m., only three hours after going to bed, Jennifer Finnerty told investigators from the sheriff's office and the state police two days later.

Her husband, Jennifer Finnerty said, went fishing and fed the couple's 3-month-old before she woke up at 9 a.m. He had some mixed drinks and beer throughout the day before heading in to take a nap at 5 p.m.

He emerged two hours later and had a cup of coffee but skipped dinner. Jennifer Finnerty remembered telling her husband that his eyes looked "beady."

By 8 p.m., Cullen Finnerty announced he wanted to go fishing one last time before the trip ended.

"The next thing he knew, Cullen was dressed in his new fishing equipment," sheriff's Detective Sgt. Ron Brown wrote, recounting his conversation with Matt Brink.

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