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  • Kevin Elliott

Death investigation of man reported missing

Investigators in Macomb and Oakland counties are investigating the disappearance and death of a Rochester Hills man found deceased Tuesday, February 20, at a Shelby Township gravel pit near Dequindre Road, between Hamlin and Auburn.

Joshua Britton Clark, 45, had been missing since Friday, February 2, after leaving Duffy's Pub in Auburn Hills. Shelby Township police said Clark's body was found about 9:30 p.m. by two individuals riding on an all terrain vehicle near a gravel pit at Hixson and Barclay.

Detectives and evidence technicians were called in and worked through the night on the investigation, Shelby Township Deputy Police Chief Mark Coil said in a news release issued Wednesday morning, February 21. "Shelby Township detectives are now working in conjunction with detectives from the Oakland County Sheriff's Department on this investigation. Mr. Clark's body has been sent to the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office to determine the cause of death."

Coil said Wednesday afternoon that autopsy results wouldn't likely be available for several days, but there were no signs of foul play or intentional death at the scene or on Clark's body.

"There's no proverbial smoking gun," Coil said. "Oakland County Sheriff's Office investigators came over yesterday. If something was awry or amiss, we would have stated so. Honestly, I think this is going to be a very sad case of a natural death."

Clark's sudden disappearance and the lack of details surrounding his death had led to efforts by friends and family in the community to locate him and search for answers. About a week after his disappearance, family and friends started the "Help Find Joshua Clark" Facebook page, where efforts included a $1,000 reward for information and a community-wide search.

A Go Fund Me page was also started to help fund search efforts to locate Clark, with the stated intention of hiring a private investigator. The page administrator said the funds raised would not be used to pay for Clark's funeral.

On Sunday, February 11, volunteers searched areas near Duffy's, Spencer Park and Borden Park while passing out about 150 informational flyers. The search occurred about three days after news that Clark's cell phone had been left in the vehicle of a woman who apparently drove him home from the bar on the day of his disappearance.

"The phone was apparently left in the car of the girl who dropped him off about 3 a.m.," a family member said in a post. "Her GPS said she went to two different places, the last one was his house and the other was (an address) on Club Drive, which is the golf course in Rochester Hills. But they have no idea where he was actually dropped off. Not sure if he ever went in his house."

Oakland County Sheriff's Office Substation Commander Capt. Michael Johnson confirmed reports that Clark received a ride home from Duffy's from a female who was a mutual friend of an employee at the bar, and that Clark's phone was left in the vehicle. Johnson said investigators spoke with the woman who confirmed dropping Clark off at an unknown location near his home. He said foul play isn't suspected.

The case remains under investigation in conjunction with the Shelby Township Police Department.

Scant details of the factors surrounding Clark's disappearance and death, combined with some degree of misinformation, may be fueling speculation among social media users.

On Thursday, February 22, the Facebook page dedicated to finding Clark was renamed "Justice for Joshua Clark."

Family earlier on the page questioned why Clark would be without his cell phone and whether or not it contained any clues to his disappearance. They also stated that it is out of character for Clark to disappear and leave behind his dog and his two jobs. Clark's own Facebook page indicates he worked as a bartender at a local establishment, as well as a saucier in the food service industry.

"We will continue to keep this page up and going until we find out all the answers of what happened to Josh on 2/2/18!" according to a post that included a photo of the Shelby Township Police Department's press release. "He was 1 mile from his house on a freezing cold night with no phone! Spread the word, someone knows something and we need to keep the pressure on!"

Social media users on Thursday, February 22, continued to push for answers and encouraged anyone with information to speak up. A similar history involving two unrelated deaths discovered at the gravel pit in recent years spurred more questions by Facebook users.

Deputy police chief Coil confirmed that Clark did have some superficial scratches to his face, but that media reports of traumatic injuries are inaccurate. Both Coil and Johnson in Rochester Hills refrained from speculating on the cause of death or potential factors until the medical examiner's office completes its report.

Shelby Township police on the department's Facebook page responded to the questions, confirming previous incidents but noting that both deaths were determined to be natural causes.

"The two (deaths) from last winter were both ruled natural deaths by the medical examiner, and both had very sad circumstances surrounding their passing," the department responded on its Facebook page. "We will have to wait and hear from ME (medical examiner) about this death as well, as there was no indication of external cause."

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