015 - The Unexplained Death of Andrew Sadek
Andrew Sadek was born in Valley City, a small town of less than 7,000 seated in Barnes County, North Dakota on November 22nd, 1993. He was raised in Rogers, about twenty six miles away, on a cattle farm owned by his family. Andrew was described a shy, quiet kid who avoided trouble and kept mostly to himself. Andrew had one sibling, an older brother named Nicholas who was tragically killed at a railroad crossing in 2005. Reportedly, Nicholas and his girlfriend were in their vehicle when it was struck by a train at an unmarked railroad crossing. Andrew was the youngest child of John and Tammy SadekThis dealt a heavy blow to the family, and had a heavy impact on Andrew. Despite the adversity, Andrew went on to graduate from Valley City High School, matriculating at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton in 2012. He began studying to become an electrician at the two-year college.
During his first year at Dakota State, Andrew was a dedicated student who didn’t socialize much. His shy nature had broken, somewhat, but he hadn’t fully blossomed into a social butterfly. He enjoyed campus life, though, and the freedom it afforded him. Being able to come and go as he pleased, meeting up with friends and spending late nights out. At some point during 2013, Andrew is alleged to have begun selling marijuana. According to reports, Andrew would meet potential buyers in parking lots of campus. A North Dakota law makes it a class A felony to sell drugs on a college campus.
According to the law, the maximum sentence and fine for selling drugs is different depending upon three factors: location, amount and whether or not a minor was involved. In North Dakota, the sale of any amount is considered a felony and comes with a possible sentence of 3-10 years and a maximum fine of $20,000. If a minor is used, the minimum sentence rises to 10 years and still a fine of $20,000. If the sale is made within 1,000 feet of a school it becomes a minimum of 20 years and a $20,000 fine.
On two separate occasions, Andrew is alleged to have sold marijuana to someone operating as a confidential informant for the police. SEMCA, the Southeast Multi-County Agency was a drug task force made up of officers from local law enforcement agencies in three counties in southeast North Dakota: Ransom, Richland and Sargent as well as Wilkins County in neighboring Minnesota. The task force focused on local drug trades and had a history converting small time dealers to confidential informants in order to reduce charges. Essentially, when they would arrest someone either in possession of, or intending to sell, marijuana and other drugs, they would be offered a choice. They could go forward with the legal proceedings and face the charges, or they could agree to work for the task force. Under this agreement they would be asked to wear a wire and to make a certain number of drug purchases. They had to coordinate with law enforcement to witness the purchases, and document it, and after an appropriate amount of time had passed, police would arrest the seller and charge him or her. At this point, that dealer may have been offered a space in the program in hopes of moving up the ladder and making larger busts.
Andrew was certainly not one of the larger dealers the police would be interested in busting. In the first sale, on April 4th, 2013, Andrew reportedly sold 1/8th of an ounce to the confidential informant for $60.00. The buy is noted as taking place in Lot #4 of the NDSCS campus. In their second meeting, on April 9th, Andrew allegedly sold the informant a gram for $20. The sale is said to have taken place in April of 2013. Again, this purchase was made in lot #4. According to the police, after both of these sales were made, they waited an appropriate amount of time in order to protect the identity of the confidential informant and finally went to talk to Andrew on November 21st of 2013. Upon arriving at his dorm room, Andrew was informed that they had reason to believe he had been selling marijuana on campus. Officers asked permission to search his dorm room and Andrew consented. Following a search, police located an orange, plastic grinder with marijuana residue inside. Andrew admitted to investigators that it was his and they confiscated it and told Andrew to come down to the Sheriff’s department the next day. He was not charged at this time.
The next day, November 22nd, on his 20th birthday, Andrew found himself in an interrogation room with Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber. Weber informed Andrew that he had sold marijuana on two occasions to a confidential informant and that they had enough evidence to charge him with two Class A felonies for selling marijuana on campus. He was also told that these two charges came with a possible sentence of 40 years and a $40,000 fine. There is camera footage of the conversation between Weber and Andrew. While Weber sits with his back to the camera, Andrew sits on the other side of the table in the small and cramped interrogation room. Andrew is dressed in a heavy blue jacket, a blue hooded sweatshirt and a black and blue cap. He sits with his fingers laced on the table in front of him and his head tilted down throughout much of the discussion. His answers are short, and quiet.
Upon entering the room, Weber opens a folder and begins by asking Andrew if his roommates knew that he was selling marijuana. He notes that he had been told that Andrew was interested in cooperating with investigators in order to minimize any possible charges he may be facing. In regard to the felonies and possible prison time, Weber adds “Obviously you’re probably not going to get 40 years but is it a good possibility you’re going to get prison time if you don’t help yourself out? If you don’t help yourself out, yeah. There is. That’s probably not a way to start off your young adult life. What I’m going to ask for you to do is do some buys for me then, you’re going to have to wear a wire, you’re going to have to buy some marijuana from individuals and then depending upon how you do, and so forth, a lot of this could go away.”
Weber goes on to tell him that he will likely have to plead guilty to a lesser charge, likely misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He immediately begins asking Andrew if he knows of anyone that he might be able to buy from, people around town or campus. Andrew notes that there are a few people he can think of, and he gives the names over to the officer. Those names have been redacted from the audio. When discussing one individual, Andrew explains that this particular person is usually in possession of larger amounts and he may be able to get three or four ounces, but officer Weber dissuades him from this since it is larger than he usually purchases and he doesn’t want to arouse the seller’s suspicions. Andrew talks about a woman he may be able to buy from, and Weber asks about his roommate and where he gets his wed to which Andrew responds that he purchases in Fargo. He doesn’t know the dealer’s name, but he does have his number.
At this point, Weber begins to explain how the process will work. He tells Andrew “Well I’ll sign you up and it’s up to you to make your contacts from there. You know you’ve got two felonies hanging over your head so we’re gonna look at probably doing um, each individual we do we have to do two deals on, ok? So you’ve got to do two deals per individual and then we’re going to be looking at probably three or four individuals that you’re going to have to do. Is that fair enough?” According to official reports released by the agency, Andrew would be required to purchase twice from three individuals. Andrew agrees to the deal. Weber tells Andrew that they have some time to get the deals done, but that he doesn’t want it to stretch all the way out to the summer. He’d like to finish before Andrew completes his next semester of classes. Weber then begins going over paperwork with Andrew, telling him how everything works, giving him some papers to sign off on as he reads out the rules of the arrangement. Included on this paperwork is a warning that he cannot hold the state of North Dakota liable for any injuries his may sustain during his time as a confidential informant and that he is to tell absolutely no one about his association with Weber, and even if he is arrested he is not to mention that he is working as a confidential informant. Weber also goes on to give Andrew an explanation of what entrapment is and that he is not to do anything in regard to his being an informant which could be construed as entrapment.
Andrew expresses some concern about whether or not the people he informs on will know that he was the one who turned them in. Weber explains that they wait for a certain amount of time before making an arrest, and he tells Andrew that just the way Andrew has no idea who turned him in, nobody will know when he informs on them. On the other hand, he explains there is the possibility that on any particular bust they make, Andrew may have to testify in court against the dealer. He pads this by explaining that in all of his years working in drug enforcement he has never seen this happen, but it is possible. At the end of the 25 minute discussion, Weber advises Andrew to try and purchase a quarter ounce, but if he can only get an eighth that would be fine. He explains that in North Dakota the amount isn’t that important as the charge is the same for selling, but that they do like to try and get larger quantities because it looks good for them. Andrew is led out of the room, and is now operating as a confidential informant for them.
Over the course of the next two months, Andrew would make three purchases of drugs under his Confidential Informant agreement. In November of 2013, just days after his discussion with Weber, Andrew purchase an 1/8th from an individual, and again this takes place in lot #4. He paid $60 for this initial buy. The second buy takes place in December and again 1/8th is purchased for $60 from the same seller, in the same parking lot. Andrew’s third buy involved a different seller, and this time one that he himself didn’t know or have experience with. The individual was identified by the task force, who directed Andrew to try and make a purchase from him. Andrew succeeded, buying another 1/8th, and once again in the same parking lot. It is after this purchase that Andrew begins withdrawing from Deputy Weber.
During their first discussion, Weber explains to Andrew that it is his responsibility to keep in touch and to check in with him. He tells Andrew that he can text him, instead of calling, but that every few days he needs an update of what is going on. He goes on to explain that if Andrew severs that connection prior to fulfilling his deal, warrants will be issued and he will be arrested on the charges he is trying to work off. Andrew acknowledged that he understood this and was willing to cooperate. Deputy Weber has stated that after the third purchase, Andrew ceased contact. Weber attempted to get in touch with him on multiple occasions, but Andrew was not responsive. Andrew still had one last buy to make in order to fulfill his deal with the task force.
According to Andrew’s family, who were completely unaware of his pending charges or his agreement to act as a confidential informant, at this point in time, Andrew is beginning to set the stage for his life after college. He is traveling around North Dakota looking for work as an electrician, visiting cities such as Bismarck and Grand Forks. Andrew is also said to have begun dating a woman around this time and that things were looking up for him. The question that authorities had was why he had stopped contacting them. They left him messages informing him that he had one more purchase to make before he was clear and that if he failed to live up to his end of the deal there would be legal repercussions, but Andrew maintained his silence and failed to contact them back.
On the weekend of April 25th and 26th of 2014, Andrew made the trip from school home to his parents place in Rogers. Over the weekend he spent time with his parents and helped tend to the cattle herd. According to his parents there was nothing out of the usual, and Andrew didn’t appear to be depressed or stressed in any way. Tammy Sadek would later state “He seemed normal, nothing was bothering him. He helped my husband work the cows and transfer them to another pasture. I was out of town. He left home about 6pm and told his dad he had a date. He shook his hand and hugged him goodbye.” He headed back to school on the 26th, and later that night at approximately 10pm, he answered a phone call from his mother. Tammy Sadek checked in with Andrew to ensure that he had made it back to campus safely and then they engaged in some short small talk. At one point they discussed their shared data plan and how it was nearing its monthly limit. When the call ended, they said goodbye and agreed to talk again soon. This would be the last time Andrew’s parents would ever hear from him.
On the night of April 30th, 2014, Andrew made plans to go out with his dorm roommate Drew Kugel. Kugel was reportedly unaware of Andrew’s work as a confidential informant and had no reasons to suspect him of any illegal activities. The two men joined up with a group of friends and went out for the evening. According to Kugel, the evening was uneventful and typical of the nights they would spend with friends. They returned to the dorm and rather than go to sleep, Andrew and Kugel sat down to watch a movie which Andrew chose. Following the conclusion of the film, both men said goodnight and that was the last time Kugel would see Andrew. He awoke the next morning, Wednesday May 1st, to find Andrew gone. According to Kugel, this wasn’t something which concerned him, though often times, Andrew would be more forthcoming about his plans. Kugel would state “I thought maybe he went to see his girlfriend. Usually he would tell me where he was going, see if I wanted to go along.”
Kugel did begin to grow concerned when no one had seen Andrew in any of his classes that Wednesday. When it became late afternoon and Andrew still hadn’t returned, he became nervous. He met up with friends on Thursday, May 2nd, asking if anyone had seen or heard from Andrew. No one had, and he hadn’t attended any of his classes that day either. Kugel discussed the situation with friends and on Friday, May 3rd, they contacted campus police and reported Andrew as a missing person. Campus police notified the local police who began investigating. Surveillance camera footage showed Andrew, dressed in blue jeans, a black and red Tampa Bay Buccaneers football sweater, blue and orange Nike shoes and a black and silver backpack exiting his dorm at approximately 2am on May 1st. In the video he appears to be alone and there are no signs or indications that anyone is nearby or following him. It has also been noted that though his cell phone was on him at this time, it was powered off.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department lead the investigation and conducted foot, air and K-9 unit searches around campus and town but were unable to pickup on any signs of Andrew. An anonymous tip was called in describing a sighting of Andrew in the Tyler, North Dakota area, but follow up searched turned up no new leads. Interestingly, at this point in time, while Andrew’s friends and family are deeply concerned that something bad has happened to him, the Richland County Sheriff’s department has a different point of view. While his parents are not aware, authorities know that Andrew has been avoiding his duty as a confidential informant and they begin putting together a theory that he had chosen to flee in order to avoid possible charges in relation to his failure to live up to his end of the deal. It has been hotly debated in the public forum as to whether or not this negatively impacted their search efforts as many believe that, thinking he was fleeing, the police were not exploring this case as a missing person search effort.
As early as Monday, May 5th, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department issued a warrant for the arrest of Andrew Sadek. The warrant officially goes public on Friday, May 9th, and specifies that Andrew is wanted for two counts of delivery of a controlled substance. It is at this point that Andrew’s parents learn of his legal troubles and they are both taken aback by the fact that he had kept this secret, but also angry with the police for not telling them earlier. It’s unknown at what point they became aware that Andrew had been operating as a confidential informant for the Sheriff’s Department, but they have been very outspoken against the practice of using college students to conduct this type of dangerous business. Sgt. Steve Helgeson of the campus police informed the media about the warrant and suggested that it is possible Andrew chose to flee from his charges.
Over the next two months, despite heavy searching and a large coalition of community volunteers, including classmates of Andrew’s, no trace of him is located. Police note that they have searched all around Wahpeton, including the river, but have been unsuccessful in locating Andrew. The conduct interviews with his friends and family, but no one has any idea where Andrew could have gone nor did they have any indication that he was planning to go anywhere. Police also spoke to his new girlfriend, but she, too, is unable to assist and has no idea where he has gone. Tammy and John Sadek went on television and pleaded with Andrew to come home, and for anyone who might have any information to come forward. When asked about whether or not Andrew would have fled, Tammy doesn’t believe so, she states “He loved school there, he loved his teachers, he loved his roommates.” She further states that she doesn’t believe Andrew left of his own volition and in fact believes someone abducted Andrew, saying “It’s been my gut feeling from the start.”
On Friday, June 27th, police discovered Andrew’s body. During a routine training assignment, a police dive team came upon his remains in the Red River near Breckenridge, Minnesota. Breckenridge is less than a mile from Wahpeton, just across the state line between North Dakota and Minnesota. The red river itself is just inside of the Minnesota state line, making the driving distance between Wahpeton and the Red River less than fifteen minutes. The discovery of his body immediately raises questions as to whether or not Andrew was murdered, committed suicide or if this is a case of an accidental drowning. An autopsy is conducted, and the results are released two months later in August of 2014, but the autopsy itself seems to raise my questions than answers.
A dental match was necessary to identify Andrew’s body due to decomposition in the river. The autopsy showed that his cause of death was a small caliber gunshot wound to the head. At the time of the autopsy, it could not be determined whether or not the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or not. Initially, police report that Andrew was wearing the black and silver backpack he had been seen wearing on the surveillance footage, and the same clothes he had been wearing when he exited his dorm. It is also reported that Andrew’s wallet is missing. The details of his body and clothing change, though, when Tammy Sadek becomes angry about the suicide theory. In an interview with a radio station, conducted the same day the autopsy report is revealed, Tammy states “There was no suicidal tendencies. There was no note. There was no depression. And his grades were excellent… Who shoots themselves in the head and fills their backpack with rocks, ties it to themselves and ends up in the river? It’s just too much.”
Tammy reveals details of the discovery of Andrew’s body that the police had not publicly stated. In her statement, Tammy explains that the backpack Andrew was wearing when his body was discovered was full of rocks, and not only did he have his arms through the straps, but the bag was actually tied to his body as if someone were attempting to weigh it down in the river. In addition to this, Andrew’s clothing was in fact not what he was seen wearing in the surveillance footage. His red and black buccaneers hooded sweater was missing, and strangely, he was wearing a jacket that none of his friends nor family members could identify as being his.
In support of the possible suicide theory, police point out the fact that sometime after the discovery of his body, the Sadek family found that a 22 caliber pistol was missing from the family home. They believe it is entirely possible that Andrew procured the pistol while visiting his parents the weekend before his vanished while his family argues that the rocks in the backpack and the theft of his wallet were efforts made by the murdered in an attempt to conceal the body and make identification difficult.
In December of 2014, Tammy further revealed what she believes is evidence of a homicide. Within days of his disappearance, Andrew’s parents were given possession of his car which was still parked on campus. Upon taking the vehicle, Tammy has said “There were several inches of water in the spare tire wheel well.” She further says that the carpeting in the trunk was soaking wet which leads her to believe that her son was murdered and placed inside of his own trunk before being driven to the river and that the water was as a result of the perpetrator cleaning out the trunk afterward. According to Tammy, a witness came forward and told her that on the night of Andrew’s disappearance she saw three men washing out the trunk of a car which bore a striking similarity to Andrew’s. Unfortunately, surveillance cameras near Andrew’s car were not functioning at the time.
Tammy and John Sadek request that North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem investigate the task force and the way in which it handled Andrew, as well as suggesting possible links to Andrew’s murder and one of the men on whom he may have informed. A panel was assembled of three long time law enforcement officers and the case was reviewed, though little fault was found with the way the task force handled Andrew. Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson stated “These types of investigations are conducted the same way pretty much everywhere where people breathe in and out. They never did anything wrong that needed to be changed.” The official review would go on to suggest that the task force be placed under the control of an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and after the review, it was.
In response to the review, Tammy Sadek stated “He was murdered. This report actually reinforces that in our minds. We know that, and we know they’re not even looking at anything. Did somebody he was trying to get for them do it? Or somebody he’d already gotten? They’re still using kids, they’re not protecting these kids.” The death of Andrew Sadek is suggested to not have been an isolated case, and that police mishandling of confidential informants, or at least their inability to properly protect them, has led to other deaths.
Rachel Hoffman was a twenty-three year old Florida State University graduate who was murdered on May 7th, 2008 while performing as a confidential drug informant. Much like Andrew, Rachel was arrested when marijuana was found in her possession during a traffic stop. A later search of her apartment led to the discovery of more marijuana and four ecstasy pills. Faced with heavy drug charges, Rachel was given three options. She could face the charges and take her chances in court, name other drug dealers and give vital information for their arrest or she could act as a confidential informant and make some drug purchases. Rachel went with the latter and was sent to make a rather large purchase. The goal was for Rachel to acquire 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine and two handguns using $13,000 provided to her by the police department.
During the buy, Rachel was monitored by undercover officers but things went south when the sellers recommended changing the location of the deal. They asked her to get in the car with them, and they would take her to the site of the sale. She had previously been informed not to follow or travel with the suspects, but eager to eliminate her charges and satisfy the police, she got into the suspects stolen BMW. Law enforcement lost track of her and during the drive, Rachel was shot with one of the guns she was meant to be buying and her body was discovered two days later. Two suspects were arrested, charged and convicted for her murder.
As a result of her murder, her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the police were forced to admit that Rachel had been given no training to work undercover, that she had never before met the two men targeted in the buy, that she had no experience with cocaine or firearms and very little experience with ecstasy. The officers in charge were ultimately suspended, with pay. As a result of this terrible incident, on May 7th, 2009, Florida passed a law called “Rachel’s Law” which requires law enforcement agencies to give special training to people recruited as confidential informants, informs potential informants that their cooperation does not necessarily guarantee a reduction in charges and permits informants to request a lawyer at any point if they so desire.
In addition to the murders of Rachel Hoffman and Andrew Sadek was the very similar case of Thomas Bearson. Bearson was an 18 year old college freshman at North Dakota State University in Fargo when he was allegedly pulled over on a possible DUI and marijuana and pills were found in his possession. It has been said that Bearson was offered the same deal as Andrew and Rachel, to act as a confidential informant for local law enforcement in exchange for a reduction of charges. Bearson is alleged to have a agreed, but very little details have been released. Whether or not Bearson was in fact acting as a confidential informant has been hotly debated, with police denying knowledge of these possible activities, while others have come forward and said he was in fact working with them.
On September 20th, 2014, Thomas was reported missing. He was last seen at 3:40am walking away from a house party. His dorm was located only six blocks away from the last place he was seen. Thomas had a twitter account and, curiously he sent a final tweet just two hours before he disappeared. The tweet read “dude it’s jake come pick us up. We are so lost and we are going to die. Just get somebody.” The recipient of the tweet claims that Thomas and this so-called Jake arrived at his house, hung out for a bit, and then Thomas left, disappearing into the night.
Three days later, on September 23rd, 2014, Thomas’ body was found five miles away, across the state line in Moorehead, Minnesota, in the lot of Larry’s RV Park. His left shoe, a Nike Air Jordan size 9 ½ and his silver iPhone 5 were missing from the crime scene. Neither have ever been recovered, and police have refused to reveal too many details about the case or the investigation. Rumors are rampant when it comes to the death of Thomas Bearson, including gruesome details that he may have been mutilated and cut in half. Though police deny Bearson had any involvement as a confidential informant, others argue that he was in fact working with them in the days leading up to his death and that he may have been murdered by a dealer he had turned in, or by a police officer attempting a cover up.
Many people have drawn strong similarities to the death of Thomas Bearson and Andrew Sadek. Both men were student in North Dakota, both bodies were found across the state line in Minnesota, both men were murdered within four months of each other, and many believe, both men were acting as confidential informants for North Dakota law enforcement agencies. Though a direct link is impossible to make, the similarities are somewhat difficult to discount. Without further evidence, it is impossible to prove that Bearson was a confidential informant like Andrew was. Neither murder has been solved, and many argue that neither case has received the proper attention they deserve from law enforcement. This has brought up a large debate about the use of college students as confidential informants, and as in the case of Rachel Hoffman, Andrew’s parents have worked hard to change the laws.
In 2016, Tammy and John Sadek filed a lawsuit against the state of North Dakota, as well as Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber stating that they failed to reasonably supervise him. In regard to the lawsuit, Attorney Tim O’Keefe, speaking on behalf of the family, stated “We filed the lawsuit today, two years from the day Andrew’s body was discovered, hoping to achieve accountability for those who put Andrew in harm’s way.” The Sadeks are suing for economic damages including the cost of the memorial, and non-economic damages related to mental anguish, emotional distress, grief and loss of companionship. When asked about the lawsuit, Tammy stated “A lawsuit is not the North Dakota way, but this is our last grasp at hoping to get some answers.” As of early 2017, the lawsuit is in motion, though the State and attorneys for Weber attempted to have a gag order placed on the Sadek’s and their attorney to stop them from publicizing any information they may gain through the lawsuit as it may negatively impact the investigation or possibly taint the jury pool. The judge declined this motion.
In 2017, Andrew’s law was signed into law. It stipulated that law enforcement must train confidential informants and that “reasonable protective measures” be granted to them. It also requires a written acknowledgement that the informant may speak with an attorney and stop working with law enforcement at any time during the agreement. It also prohibits the use of informants under the age of 15, and disallows campus police from using confidential informants. It also requires the attorney general to authorize an independent investigation in the event that a confidential informant dies.
There are four essential theories revolving around the death of Andrew Sadek. Of those four, two are considered to be more likely than the others, and are the two which have been put forward by the police, on one side, and Andrew’s parents on the other. The first theory revolves around Andrew’s new girlfriend. She was the only person new to Andrew’s life, and the only one that family and friends knew very little about, although Tammy would refer to has as “the sweetest thing ever.” There appears to be no motive, although a crime revolving around a relationship isn’t entirely new or impossible, but this theory is often dismissed because authorities state that they have spoken to this woman and ruled her out as a possibility. Despite my sincerest efforts, I was unable to find her name. Both police and Andrew’s parents don’t consider her a likely suspect, though it’s considered a possibility by many others. Unfortunately, with such a thin amount of information, it’s nearly impossible to appropriately address this theory other than to list it as one.
The next theory is the one which the police have suggested almost since the beginning: that Andrew committed suicide. Theories abound about why exactly Andrew would have chosen to take his own life, but many believe it could have been a combination of factors, as it often is. Many believe that Andrew felt overwhelmed by his role as a confidential informant, and possibly even guilty for turning others in the way he had been, and made the decision to stop participating, not because he was going to go to jail, but because he was going to commit suicide. Under this theory, Andrew’s visit to his parents ranch on the weekend before his disappearance was likely a way of saying goodbye, and to take the missing 22 caliber pistol with which he would kill himself. Of course, there are pieces which don’t fit. Andrew was two weeks away from graduating, had been taking steps to find jobs and plan out his future, had begun dating someone and spent his last night hanging out with friends. Most people don’t view these actions as those of a suicidal person, and if anything, show plans for the future rather than disregard for it. One of the biggest questions is the backpack full of rocks. Even if Andrew had made the choice to commit suicide, why would he go through the extra step of weighing himself down with rocks in order to conceal his body? It just doesn’t connect for many people. Police certainly considered suicide a likely option, though Andrew’s parents firmly disagreed.
Since almost the beginning, John, and specifically Tammy, have been very outspoken against the suicide theory and have believed that Andrew was murdered. The murder theory branches off into three possible lists of suspects: A drug dealer that Andrew informed on, a random act of violence or a police officer. Random act of violence is always a possibility and Andrew could have run into anyone that late night on the streets of Wahpeton. It’s certainly plausible that he could have been the victim of a robbery gone wrong, which would explain his missing wallet, or even someone who was out looking to commit a murder. The idea that it could have been retribution for Andrew narcing on a dealer is certainly plausible. Drugs are a dangerous game, and it’s not entirely unlikely that someone may have learned about what Andrew was doing and decided to strike against him. If this was the case, you’d have to believe Police would have looked very closely as those he had made deals with, but again, we don’t know how closely they examined this case from the perspective of ahomicide rather than suicide. The final branch is that Andrew may have been murdered by a police officer. Many have theorized that Andrew may have seen or heard something he wasn’t meant to, and perhaps this is why he chose to walk away as an informant and someone felt it necessary to kill him in order to cover it up. That is remarkably speculative, but in this case, with no suspects, no concrete motive and no real evidence, speculation is all we have.
So what happened to Andrew Sadek? A young college student primed to graduate and start his new life, he was working with the police as a confidential informant to get himself out from under major drug charges when suddenly he vanishes, and two months later, his body is pulled from the river, the victim of either a suicide or a homicide. As of this recording, the investigation officially lists the manner of Andrew’s death as “undetermined” although it is believed to be being looked at as a homicide. In the three years since Andrew died, there has been little information released by investigators, and no suspects have ever been listed. The lawsuit will likely continue to inhibit the release of information regarding this case. John and Tammy succeeded in passing a law to defend others from ending up in the situation that Andrew did, but now seek to feel vindicated in their lawsuit against the state and Deputy Weber. Regardless of the outcome, they will never have their son back, and somewhere, a killer is walking the streets.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The terrible death of Andrew Sadek is one of those stories we should have never had to hear. A quiet, shy boy in a small town goes off to college, begins to experience the blooming world and finds himself in a difficult situation because of a stupid decision. In order to make ammens for his actions, and to dig himself out of the hole he finds himself at the bottom of he makes a deal that can clear his name and allow him to move forward with his life without having to have it irreparably damaged due to his poor choices. In many cases, others have been in his situation before, made the same deal, and walked away with a second chance. Whether or not they use that second chance to its fullest, or relapsed back into their criminal behavior can’t truly be measured, but in the case of Andrew Sadek, six months after he signs his name on the dotted line he vanishes without a trace.
This case brings up a lot of different topics which are often hotly debated. I don’t want to get bogged down in the politics of all of it. Marijuana and its legal status is frequently discussed in the United States, and around the world. Some states have chosen to legalize it, others have become more strict in the enforcement of its sale and possession. In almost every state, it is considered especially criminal to distribute marijuana near or in a school zone, and this includes college campuses and if someone is arrested for doing so, they almost always faced more prominent charges with longer possible sentences and deeper fines. The law attempts to be black and white about it, although people tend to think in a vast spectrum of colors. Regardless of how you see it, Andrew Sadek did break the law by selling marijuana, and he was facing two Class A Felonies for doing so on a college campus. There is no denying this, and this is a simple fact of the case. Many times I have seen this issue being debated, but at the end of the day, this is a case about a young man losing his life and I don’t want to lose sight of that. This is about Andrew Sadek and not a forum for debating the legality of marijuana. Many people seem to have forgotten that when they address this case.
Strangely, this isn’t a case that I’ve seen splashed all over the headlines. I thought it would be, it has so many aspects that typically draw the media in. A young man, caught up in a world of drugs, gets arrested and agrees to work as a confidential informant for the police. Within six months of his signing this agreement he vanishes and is found two months later in a river with a bullet in his head and a backpack full of rocks strapped to his body. There have been news articles, and Andrew’s parents have been very outspoken in interviews, but outside of a small spot on an episode of 60 Minutes, this case has received almost no real coverage.
It’s absolutely baffling what happened here, and the confusion about the fate of Andrew Sadek is only made deeper when the police and his parents begin a very public debate about what exactly occurred. Initially, nobody knows the true extent to which Andre was connected to the Richland Sheriff’s Department, in terms of his time as a confidential informant, but as the details begin to emerge, not only are his parents shocked by this revelation, but they are further appalled when rather than addressing this as a disappearance, the Sheriff’s department issues warrants for his arrest. After the discovery of his body, police hint towards a possible suicide, and Andrew’s parents firmly believe that their son was murdered. They lost their first son ten years earlier, and now they are left with no children and they want answers, and they want justice. There are theories, and each has its supporters and detractors, but at the end of the day, Andrew Sadek died for no good reason and the lack of answers only makes it that much more difficult to accept.
Andrew Sadek was attending North Dakota State College of Science in the Fall of 2013. He lived in a dorm in Nordgaard Hall which he shared with Drew Kugel. Drew described Andrew as a quiet kid who got good grades and liked to ride his skateboard around campus. Andrew’s mother, Tammy, referred to her son as shy and timid, but very kind and the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody. She would go on to say that he thoroughly enjoyed his time at school and that it was helping with his social development, he was making friends, breaking out of his shell and becoming an adult. All around, opinions of Andrew are pretty much in line with these two descriptions.
At some point which we can’t know for sure, Andrew begins selling marijuana. There have been no reports released which show a timeline for when this began, nor for where Andrew was getting his supply. Either way, during the month of April, 2013, he sells marijuana on two separate occasions to someone working as a confidential informant for SEMCA, a task force made up of multiple law enforcement agencies from four separate counties. Three in North Darkota, and one in Minnesota. Eight months later, in November, officers arrive at his dorm room and inform him that they are aware he has been selling marijuana. He consents to a search and police recover a plastic grinder with marijuana residue in it. Rather than arresting him, they request that Andrew come down to the Sheriff’s Department the next day to discuss his possible options. Andrew agrees and on his 20th birthday, he meets with Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber.
Andrew is informed that he is facing a possible sentence of 40 years in prison for committing two Class A felonies for selling marijuana on campus, but he might be able to help himself out. Weber offers Andrew the ability to work as a confidential informant for the task force, during which time, he will be asked to make two drug buys from three separate sellers. If he completes this task, his charges will be dramatically reduces, likely resulting in Andrew pleading guilty only to a misdemeanor charger rather than going to court and facing 40 years. Andrew agrees and signs on. Unfortunately for Andrew, he’s a young kid, and he is only thinking in that moment of his necessity to get himself out of trouble. When asked about this later, his mother Tammy said that the police used the charges to frighten Andrew into making a foolish decision and that if she had known about it she would have said no, hired a lawyer and taken their chances in court. Most prosecutors have said that it is highly unlikely that a first time offender would face the full brunt of those charges and likely a plea agreement would have been arranged. The entire discussion between Andrew and Weber is a little over 25 minutes. I watched the video and listened to the full conversation. For the most part, Andrew is very quiet and reserved, other than at the end when he expresses concern about someone learning his identity as a confidential informant. Weber advises him that this is unlikely, but does stress how important it is that he tells absolutely no one.
This is a fairly common practice. I have read multiple reports that almost all confidential informants involved in stopping drug sales are acquired in this manner. It’s rare in this day to see a narcotics officer going undercover to make these purchases. It’s much more efficient and less costly to utilize people in these ways. I spoke to a friend of mine who is involved in the law and she explained to me that this practice happens all over the country, every day. According to her, in some cases, the person may hire a lawyer, and the lawyer will approach the police about working out this deal, but for the most part, the power to arrange this is in the hands of the police themselves and it is done frequently. She referred to them as bad cases, for the most part, as if someone is arrested for selling and they wish to go to trial, the informant has to testify and thus reveal his or her identity and the police typical work hard to conceal it. This is a highly debated practice as some view it as a second chance for the offender to clear his name and help the police while others feel that this needlessly places people in danger.
These informants are not trained, they are not taught or instructed the way that police officers are. They don’t necessarily know how to handle themselves if something goes wrong, and if it leaks out that they are involved in these practices, their lives could be in danger. As I discussed in the Rachel Hoffman case, even with the police nearby and monitoring the situation, that doesn’t mean the individual is going to be safe. Laws have passed in several states, including North Dakota, which require the Police to train these confidential informants and to grant them a wider array of protection.
We know that Andrew made several purchases for the Sheriff’s department between November of 2013 and January of 2014. Then, for an unknown reason, he stops answering calls, he stops checking in, he no longer participates in the agreement. Deputy Weber attempts to reach him multiple times, but he is ignored. Why no action was taken at that point in time, I honestly don’t know. If Andrew stopped participating in January, why does he make it all the way to May without intervention from the police? That’s a question we just don’t have the answer to, but if they had intervened, he may still be here today.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew goes about his business as normal. He visits several towns around North Dakota looking to get hired on as an electrician. He also begins dating a woman, although her identity has never been officially revealed. Regardless, it appears as though his parents must have met her at some point in time as Tammy thinks she is a sweet girl and spoke out against any theories that she may have been involved in Andrew’s murder. In late April of 2014, a year after the initial marijuana sales which landed him in an interrogation room at the Sheriff’s department, things begin to turn sideways, though no one is the wiser as to why. Andrew visits his parents, though his mom is out of town, and helps out with the cattle herd. He spends the weekend of the 25th and 26th there, before heading back to school. His mother calls him at approximately 10pm on the 26th and they have a normal conversation. Neither his mother nor his father note any odd behavior or any signs that Andrew was suicidal, nor in any trouble. It should be noted, at this point, they are still unaware of his legal troubles and his position as a confidential informant so it’s hard to say if they would have noticed any shifts in behavior.
On April 30th, Andrew goes out with his roommate, Drew Kugel and they hang out with some friends. They come back to the dorm, watch a movie together and then go to bed. We don’t have a timeline for the events of this evening, but we do know, based on surveillance footage, that Andrew exits the dorm at approximately 2am. The reason he left is widely open to speculation. Some people believe he was meeting up to make a drug purchase, but the police have stated he didn’t contact them in reference to this and he hadn’t been in contact with them for several months at this point in time. He was wearing a backpack when he left, the contents of which are unknown. He doesn’t appear to be in any trouble, nor does it appear that anyone else is around. This is the last time Andrew is seen alive.
After several days without coming back to the dorm, and without contacting anyone, he is reported missing. Police begin to investigate the disappearance, but they also take our warrants on him for his drug arrests. This is a strange action and almost feels like it was done to cover their asses. As I previously mentioned, he hadn’t been in contact with them for months and all of a sudden when he is reported missing they decide to file the warrants. The police would say it was merely routine, but it almost feels as if they are trying to protect themselves, or that the issuing of the warrants stems from their belief that he has disappeared of his own volition in an attempt to flee from his charges. That always felt odd to me because he had several months during which he could have fled, why wait until just two weeks before graduation? To me, it’s much more likely that if Andrew were considering running, he wouldn’t have been making future plans in the area and based on his closeness to his family I have to believe he would have gone to them about the legal trouble and seen about getting a lawyer. I don’t think he’d have run off.
After a bitter two months of back and forth between the police which involves the suggestion that Andrew may be a fleeing felon and the revelation to his parents of the situation he was in, search efforts yield no results. There was a statement from Tammy in which she was discussing the disappearance which occurred in the early morning hours of May 1st. According to Tammy, the report that Andrew was missing, the police said they were going to search the river thoroughly as soon as its levels dropped for the season. She would claim that the level lowered a week after his disappearance, and though police claim to have searched the river, there is no record of a dive team being sent into the river. This is a point of contention because nearly three months later, on June 27th, Andrew’s body is discovered in the river by a police diving team on a training assignment. At this point, everything about this investigation begins to become murky.
Autopsy results show that Andrew sustained a low caliber gunshot wound to the head, which was ultimately the cause of death. They find that he had likely been killed within forty eight hours of his disappearance. Strangely, they announce publicly that he had been wearing the same clothes he had on when he disappeared, but Tammy contradicts that, stating that he no longer had his hoodie on and instead was wearing a jacket which was unfamiliar. Police theorize about a possible suicide, considering a small caliber handgun was missing from his parents ranch and he was in emotional turmoil regarding his status with the police. Tammy disagrees and releases further information that Andrew’s backpack had been found on his back, as well as tied to him, and full of rocks to weigh his body down.
So what exactly happened to Andrew? There are a lot of questions I have regarding the way in which his body was found. The backpack is a fascinating detail, but I’ve always wondered, are we talking three or four large rocks or a larger quantity of small rocks? It seems like an innocuous detail but I don’t believe a killer would take the time gathering up small rocks, so if it were larger rocks I feel that would be more of a confirmation of murder whereas with smaller rocks, I feel it’s possible Andrew could have taken his time to fill the bag and really think about what he was doing.
In regard to why police released different information about his clothing, there could be a lot of reasons, but if they did suspect homicide, they may have wanted to retain that information to use while questioning a suspect in the future. I don’t put a lot of interest into the jacket as it’s not unlikely that Andrew could have purchased a new jacket that no one had seen before, and perhaps that is what was in his backpack when he left the dorm. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing and whatever information police did discover in relation to his clothing, they have yet to release it.
The first theory is that Andrew’s death had something to do with the woman he was dating. There are a million different ways this theory could come together. Perhaps she and Andrew got into a fight and he was shot during a moment of anger. Maybe she had other boyfriends or a jealous ex who may have known Andrew and wanted to get revenge. There are way too many loose ends when it comes to this theory, so I have to defer to both the police and Andrew’s parents. The police say that they questioned this woman, but that she was not considered to be a suspect. Andrew’s mother, his biggest proponent throughout this entire ordeal, agrees that the girlfriend was not a viable suspect. So if she wasn’t tied to what happened to him, who could have been?
There is the possibility of a random act of violence. Andrew left the dorm around 2am, and there is definitely a plausible theory that he may have run into one or more unsavory characters. His missing wallet helps with this theory as it’s entirely possible we are looking at a robbery gone wrong. Perhaps he came across someone who intended to rob him, pointed a gun at him and made him get into a car. The suspect drives him down to the river and for one reason or another, decides to kill him. This is where the backpack would come into play. The killer could easily have stuffed a few rocks into his bag, tied the bag to his body and pushed him into the river. I have to say, I think there is a good possibility here that Andrew was murdered by a random person, but likely someone who lived in the area. The perpetrator would have known the location of the river, and felt comfortable enough with it to bring Andrew down there. Typically, a killer isn’t going to bring someone to a place he has never been on the off chance that he might get away with it. If this is the case then the killer could have either went back to town and continued to live locally, or perhaps been a drifter. I do find it interesting that the river is so close to the border of North Dakota and Minnesota and I wonder if it’s possible the killer lived in Minnesota. Unfortunately, this aspect of the case is where everything falls apart as so very few details have been revealed. Without having the evidence, I have to say that I think the random act of violence is a high possibility.
Another theory is that Andrew’s status as a confidential informant was discovered and one of the dealers from whom he bought had him killed. This is absolutely a possibility, and a high one on the list. Andrew was 20 years old when he became a confidential informant, and though he was concerned about people learning his identity, its not completely out of the realm of possibility to believe he may have told someone. Maybe a friend he trusted, maybe it came out when he was drinking. However it happened, it’s possible, and when something like that comes out, other people tend to spread it around. There is also the possibility that the person who informed on Andrew may have told someone about it, and then when Andrew came around looking to make buys, they became suspicious. I have always believed that the backpack Andrew was wearing the night he disappeared is connected to his murder. I can’t help but wonder if there were drugs or money in that bag. I don’t believe he randomly elected to go out at 2am. I think he was meeting someone, for something. If that is the case, whoever it was who lured him out that night is almost certainly responsible for his murder.
Tammy said that she was told by an anonymous witness that she had seen three men who appeared to be washing a car that looked similar to Andrew’s the night he disappeared. Tammy believes these men likely shot Andrew, put him in the trunk, drove him to the river and tossed him in, then drove his car back. I find this to be a difficult part of the theory to swallow. Firstly, it’s based off an anonymous witness who spoke to Tammy and I have no evidence to suggest this witness ever spoke to the police. In addition to this, why would they have washed his car when they came back? That is much more likely to have drawn attention. They could have easily just driven the car into the river with him. Maybe they were afraid he would be discovered faster if they did that, but why they were concerned with concealing his body in the first place is curious to me. Typically, if you’re a so-called rat, the people who take you out want others to know, as a warning. That isn’t always the case, but I feel like they wouldn’t have gone through the effort to weigh his body down and also clean out the car. I think they were much more likely to have shot Andrew and dumped him in the river and been done with it.
It’s hard to say for sure, but it is absolutely impossible to ignore the possibility that Andrew was murdered by someone he setup in one of those buys. The thing which makes me question this is that the Police know everyone he made these buys with, they were there monitoring it and keeping records. You have to believe they would have thoroughly questioned anyone Andrew dealt with while he was working undercover for them and to this day they have never revealed a suspect. I think this is a very good possibility, honestly the most likely possibility on the list.
Some people have suggested that Andrew may have been murdered by one of the police officers he was working for. Much like the girlfriend theory, this takes somewhat of a leap of faith. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a dirty cop did something like this, but I see no evidence to make this connection. Andrew would have had to have been in a very bad situation and have seen or have known something which made a police officer need to eliminate him. The only thing that I could see lending any credence to this is the fact that Andrew left his dorm at 2am that morning and it’s entirely possible he was lured out by someone he trusted. On the other hand, if he had learned something criminal about one of the officers, wouldn’t he have been less likely to meet him at such an odd time? Perhaps, but if the cop was threatening to file warrants against him, he may have felt that he had to go. I’ve always thought there was something very strange about the way Andrew was such a cooperative informant and then out of the blue, right when he is almost done with it all, he stops. What made him stop and could it be connected to one of the police officers for whom he was working? We may never know, but I can’t exactly rule it out as a possibility either.
That leaves us with the final theory of suicide. To me, suicide is an interesting possibility in this case. We have almost as much evidence to support it as we have evidence to contradict it. We know that a 22 caliber gun went missing from his parents home and that a small caliber weapon was used to end his life. If he had shot himself while in the river, or in a way in which he would fall into the river, this could explain why the murder weapon was never found. If he didn’t want to be found, or he felt shame for what he was doing and wanting to hide, it is very possible he could have filled his bag with rocks and tied it to himself but in my experience suicides don’t typically go out of their way to conceal themselves. When you reach the psychological breaking point where you’re willing to end your own life, you don’t usually think beyond it. And that is part of what makes me question suicide, that and the fact that Andrew had started dating someone and was making plans for the future. These aren’t the behaviors of someone who plans to commit suicide, and typically, they push away from those they care about, they don’t usually invite others into the fold.
We also have his missing wallet. Now, Andrew’s wallet could have been lost in the river, just as is possible with the gun, and as far as we have been made aware, there has been no activity on his bank account or social security number, so if someone did steal it, they would only have been going for the cash and then ditched it. Andrew could even have ditched his own wallet somewhere, but why would he? I can absolutely see where the police are coming from with this theory. He was under a lot of pressure, he was in a tough situation and he had to know that by not working with the police anymore, he was running a high risk of being arrested, so it’s possible that it all became too much for him and he chose to end things. In the years since his death, police seem to have slowly moved away from the suicide theory and even the manner of death on his death certificate has been changed to “undetermined.” I consider suicide a possibility, but not the most likely answer to this mystery.
The death of Andrew Sadek is a tragic story which has deeply affected not only his family and friends, but the entire state of North Dakota. His parents managed to take their grief and transform it into a new law to protect others who may find themselves in Andrew’s position someday in the future and you have to respect grieving parents who are able to put their pain into action. As for their lawsuit, it remains to be seen what happens, and though I feel for them, and I support them, I don’t believe they will come out of it with much of anything unless the state and deputy Weber choose to settle. According to the review board’s report, Andrew was handled no differently from any other confidential informant and they found no wrongdoing in their actions. That’s going to be hard to overcome in a wrongful death suit.
This is one of those cases that sticks in my head. It all seems so meaningless, whether it was murder or suicide, Andrew Sadek is gone and he shouldn’t be. He was a bright young man with a good future ahead of him and in a moment all of that was taken away. We may never find the answers to this case, and we may never know exactly what happened, but we can hope that if someone was involved in this, they will be revealed and can face justice for what they have done. If indeed Andrew took his own life, then we can only hope that his family can find some form of closure and come to peace with the loss of both of their children. The death of Andrew Sadek remains and open investigation, but in the three years since, no relevant leads nor suspects have been discovered.