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    ‘It’s not a possum, it’s a person’: Man missing for a month is found dead in chimney
    • October 27, 2023

    A month after a tenant reported frantic yelling in his Nebraska apartment building, a missing man was found dead in a chimney.

    1414 S. Third St., Norfolk, Nebraska. (Google Maps image)

    Police in Norfolk announced on Wednesday, Oct. 25, that the body recovered the previous week was that of Zachariah A. Andrews, 29. The Norfolk man had been officially reported missing on Oct. 3, and the last sighting of him was Sept. 15, the police said.

    On the afternoon of Sept. 16, a resident called police to report somebody yelling for help, apparently inside the two-story apartment building. “It was someone saying, ‘Dear Jesus, help me. Dear Jesus, help me,’” another tenant later told the Norfolk Daily News.

    By the time officers responded, the yelling had stopped, and three other residents said they hadn’t heard anything. The police suggested that the noise might have come from a loud television on the first floor.

    Within about a week of the incident, tenants reported a foul smell. A maintenance worker initially attributed it to dampness in the 110-year-old brick building, the landlord told the Daily News.

    The landlord said he asked the man to investigate further, and on Oct. 18 the worker cut a hole in the basement ceiling. Seeing what he believed to be an opossum tail, he told the landlord the odor was from a dead animal and that he would remove it the next day.

    On Oct. 19, he called the landlord with startling news: “It’s not a possum, it’s a person.” The tail was actually the lace of a shoe on somebody who was wedged in an out-of-use chimney.

    The body was removed by police, who had to break through a wall in a first-floor apartment. In announcing the identification, the department said a parking warning had been placed on Andrews’ car, near the building, on Sept. 20, and that officers had spoken with the missing man’s family.

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    The police said the preliminary finding is that the death was accidental. They did not provide any information on why or how Andrews is thought to have entered the chimney.

    The landlord told the Daily News that it would have been difficult to enter the chimney either from inside the building or from the roof. He said the opening of the chimney is about 10 inches wide at the bottom and perhaps a little wider at the top, which extends 7 feet above the roof. When workers need access to the roof, he said, they use a 20-foot ladder from the roof of the adjoining one-story building, Hank & Snook’s Mint Bar.

    The case is similar to that of Harley Dilly, a 14-year-old Ohio boy who went missing after leaving for school on Dec. 20, 2019. He was found dead more than three weeks later in the chimney of a vacant house across the street from his family’s. It is believed that he got on the roof and descended the chimney, then hit a blockage in the shaft and was unable to climb out.

    ​ Orange County Register