CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire congressional delegation members are urging the U.S. State Department to investigate the death of an American in Saudi Arabia.
The body of Christopher Cramer, of Milford, New Hampshire, was found beneath the third-floor balcony of the Sahara Makarim Hotel in Tabuk on Jan. 15. He was working for Merrimack-based Kollsman Inc. to help the Saudis with thermal optical devices, part of the country’s missile systems.
Family and friends said just before he died, the 50-year-old Cramer sent a text message to his roommate in Milford saying he thought something bad was going to happen and asking him to contact the State Department.
Kollsman officials initially told Cramer’s family that the company received information from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, indicating the death was a suicide, based on reports from Tabuk police. Cramer’s family later hired Dr. Michael Baden, the recently retired medical examiner for New York State Police, to perform an autopsy, and he determined it was a homicide. He suggests Cramer was severely beaten before he fell or was pushed off the balcony.
“When somebody falls from a height, as was the situation here, there are various injuries to the impact sites: skin injuries and skeletal injuries,” Baden told The Associated Press on Friday. “In this instance, the impact injuries could not account for all the damage to the body. In particular, he had fractures to the front and back of his body and that’s an indication that he had injuries before he went out the window.
“And that to me indicated homicide, not suicide,” Baden said.
Baden said the initial death certificate from Saudi Arabia identified the cause of death as being from multiple injuries but did not classify it as accidental, suicide or homicide.
The Telegraph of Nashua reported a toxicology report showed there were no sign of drugs or alcohol in Cramer’s body.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen first wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry in March asking for an investigation and a briefing. She also recently contacted the White House, spokesman Ryan Nickel said.
“This recent autopsy is further confirmation that Christopher Cramer’s death needs a thorough investigation,” Nickel said in a statement Friday.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster have been in touch with the Cramer family, Kollsman and the State Department.
“Six months later, it is unacceptable that the Saudi government still has not provided more information regarding the circumstances surrounding Christopher’s tragic death,” Ayotte said in an emailed statement. “I will continue to press the State Department to do more until all the facts are known.”
State Department spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff said it has offered to assist Saudi authorities with any investigation into Cramer’s death but can’t investigate an incident overseas without the permission of the host government. As of Friday, the U.S. had not received a request for assistance, she said.
“We continue to engage with the Saudis on this case, and our offer of assistance stands,” Pfaff said in an emailed statement.
Associated Press writer Rik Stevens in Concord contributed to this report.