A University of Massachusetts alumnus was found dead in Providence, R.I. last week, after having been missing for several days.
The body of Gregory Hart, 23 of Dedham, was found in the Woonasquatucket River late afteroon Tuesday, March 16. Medical examiners in Rhode Island concluded that Hart, a 2009 UMass economics graduate, was “highly intoxicated” and drowned to death in the river.
Hart’s family, however, is convinced otherwise.
“His body and his face is not the face of a drowning victim,” said his younger sister Victoria Hart, 20. “He was beaten.”
Hart’s family have offered a $20,000 reward for information surrounding his death, and have accused the Providence Police Department of botching the investigation.
Hart disappeared late Saturday evening into early Sunday morning from the Red Room Bar, located at 1 Fox Place in Providence, R.I. The bar is owned by the wife of Providence detective Sean Carroll. He was last seen with William McClennen and Zachary Piwk0, both former UMass students from Milford, Mass.
His body was not found until approximately 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 16, when Victoria Hart’s boyfriend Cory McColgan and friend Ryan Gearty discovered it in the river. According to Hart’s family, his eye socket had been severely damaged, his clothes torn and there were cuts on his knuckles and cheek.
McColgan and Gearty were part of an approximately 40-person search party assembled by Hart’s family early Tuesday morning. Members of Hart’s family, including Victoria Hart and her mother Marianne, had been looking for him since Sunday, scouring Providence alleyways and dumpsters in the search.
Bridget Prisk, a former UMass student and Gregory Hart’s girlfriend of four years, took issue with the delay between his reported disappearance and when police began their search.
“It was very mishandled,” Prisk said. “It’s really upsetting – that we were down there looking for him and the Providence police didn’t send anyone looking for him until Tuesday.”
Police told The Providence Journal they had been gathering cadets for their own search when the body was found. The Collegian could not reach detectives investigating the case for the Providence Police Department for comment. Chief Dean M. Esserman told The Journal Thursday that he is reviewing the department’s handling of the case due to the Hart family’s “very serious claims.”
Prisk and Victoria Hart described Gregory Hart as a caring and driven student who had graduated with honors and worked as an economics tutor in the Learning Commons at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. He was about to begin work as an applications specialist at Meditech, a medical software company based in Westwood, Mass., when he went missing.
“Our freshman year we both lived in McNamara – he lived down the hall from me,” said Prisk. “He was one of those people, you’d be in a class of 300 and he’d be raising his hand.”
“Greg was such a good person,” said Victoria Hart. “He had so much to do and someone stole him from us.”
Hart’s family is offering the reward in hopes of opening a deeper investigation into the case. Though police have deemed his death “suspicious,” they reported to numerous media outlets that the probable cause of death was drowning, citing that Hart was “highly intoxicated.”
“They’re making my brother seem like a drunken jerk who fell over the railing in the river,” Victoria Hart said.
S.P. Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.