On 24 June this year, 51-year-old Reverend Gary M Aldridge, senior pastor at the Thorington Road Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, was found dead at his home having failed to put in an appearance at that morning's services.
A preliminary autopsy by Dr Stephen Boudreaux "indicated that Aldridge died of suffocation, and that there was no sign of injury". Boudreaux subsequently declared that Aldridge's demise "was not the result of suicide".
Move along, nothing to see here, you might be thinking. However, suspicions were aroused when the District Attorney for Montgomery County, Ellen Brooks, then imposed an embargo on further information about the case, ordering the medical examiner in writing "not to disclose his findings from the autopsy".
In July, local paper the Montgomery Adviser requested information about the incident, but was told that "...report(s) cannot be released to the public at this time because the District Attorney has determined that the case is still under investigation. Your request will be kept on file in the event that it may be released at a future date."
According to EDGE Boston, Aldridge's church also moved to keep the matter under wraps, issuing a press release asking people to "refrain from speculation" about the circumstances of the pastor's untimely shuffle from the mortal coil.
And no wonder, because The Smoking Gun claims to have got its hands on the full autopsy report, which states the cause of death as "Accidental Mechanical Asphyxia".
The "Evidence of Injury" section elaborates:
The decedent is clothed in a diving wet suit, a face mask which has a single vent for breathing, a rubberized head mask having an opening for the mouth and eyes, a second rubberized suit with suspenders, rubberized male underwear, hands and feet have diving gloves and slippers. There are numerous straps and cords restraining the decedent. There is a leather belt about the midriff. There is a series of ligatures extending from the hands to the feet. The hands are bound behind the back. The feet are tied to the hands. There are nylon ligatures holding these in place with leather straps about the wrists and ankles. There are plastic cords also tied about the hands and feet with a single plastic cord extending up to the head and surrounding the lower neck. There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom.
The rest of the document is unremarkable, save a rather poignant list of "Personal effects", viz: "One yellow metal ring intact on left ring finger, one dildo."
In case you imagine that auto-erotic asphixiation is a peculiarly US-based Baptist-specific practice, your attention is drawn to the sad case of Tory MP Stephen Milligan who in 1994 was found dead at his flat in Chiswick, west London, wearing stockings and suspenders and black bin liner over his head. An autopsy revealed he'd died of asphyxiation caused by an electrical flex tied round his neck. ®