Imagine being single, and meeting a nice person at a bar. The chat goes well, you take her home. You flirt, you fool around, you talk, you have a great time. You want another date, so you call her. She doesn’t call back. Then watching the news two days later, you see she was killed by a shark. Everyone says she was eaten by a shark: the police, the media, the medical examiner, everyone. But then a reporter starts talking to shark experts and raises some serious questions about what happened. And 14 years later you look into the case and realize that maybe she hadn’t been eaten by a shark after all. All of this happened to a colleague of mine, Ed Decker. The beginning of his piece in this week’s CityBeat is reprinted below.
Revisiting the mysterious death of Michelle von Emster
By Edwin Decker
I just got off the phone with Ralph Collier of the International Shark Committee and am utterly blown away. My knees are weak. My brain is in a haze. And now I’m looking at the blank screen that will become this column thinking, Where on Earth do I begin?
In 1994, a “friend” of mine was killed by a “shark” in the waters off Ocean Beach. I put quotes around the word “friend” because Michelle von Emster wasn’t a friend-friend, nor was she a girlfriend. She was a young woman whom I fancied for several months, whom I eventually asked out on a date and who accepted.
We went out to Winston’s, a bar in Ocean Beach, watched bands and drank liquor. At about midnight, we left the bar, bought some beer and cigarettes, returned to my pad and sat on the couch, where we talked and flirted all night. At one point, she let me take off her shirt so I could see the large butterfly tattoo on her right shoulder blade, after which we kissed and fondled each other until well past dawn.
I was crazy about Michelle and was looking forward to seeing her again, and again, and again. But less than 48 hours later, Michelle went skinny-dipping off Sunset Cliffs and was attacked and killed by a “shark.”
I put the word “shark” in quotes because now (thanks in part to phone my conversation with Collier) I don’t believe that’s what killed her.