Pushing Up Lilies

The Mysterious Death of Amanda Wienckowski

Episode Summary

In this compelling episode of Pushing Up Lilies, join me as we delve into the haunting case of Amanda Wienckowski, whose tragic death in 2008 in New York has left many unanswered questions. Amanda was discovered naked, frozen, and head first in a garbage dumpster, with her death initially deemed an accident by the medical examiner. However, Amanda's mother is tirelessly advocating for the case to be reopened and reclassified, hoping to spark a new investigation into her daughter's death. We'll explore the details of this perplexing case, discussing the challenges faced by families seeking justice and the importance of reopening cold cases when new information emerges. Listen in as we shine a light on the mysterious death of Amanda Wienckowski and the ongoing quest for truth and accountability in her tragic death. * Listener discretion is advised.

Episode Notes

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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:30 Hey, guys, I hope that you're having an amazing week.

0:35 I'm sure that y'all heard about the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

0:40 I think four people lost their lives.

0:42 One was a little four-month-old.

0:45 I always hate to hear about catastrophes like that and, you know, as death investigators, we always think what if? I mean because there's always the possibility that something like that could happen in our area.

1:01 And years ago after 911, I went to New York City to train with the New York City medical examiner's office.

1:10 And they, I think I told you all about this in the last episode, but they went over mass fatalities and how to search for bodies and different things like that.

1:23 And it's scary to think about because, you know, at any given time, we could have a big event like that.

1:28 We could have heaven forbid a plane crash or gosh, anymore.

1:35 It wouldn't be unusual to have an earthquake in Texas.

1:39 I was in Houston when hurricane Ike hit.

1:41 The possibility of something like that happening, it's kind of scary to think about as an investigator because, you know, it's going to be, if something like that were to happen, it's going to be all hands-on deck, it's going to take a team literally to handle something like that.

2:03 It's just kind of scary to think about.

2:06 I know we could handle it.

2:07 I mean, we're a great team and demo and there's other organizations that would step in to help, you know, if needed.

2:16 But it is something that we think about a lot because there's always that possibility that something big could happen anyway.

2:25 I hated to hear about that.

2:27 And, you know, Oklahoma, Kansas, even parts of Texas tend to get hit fairly regularly.

2:34 There's always that possibility, something that came up yesterday at work that I just kind of wanted to visit with y'all about.

2:41 It's something that I really haven't touched on is when we are at scenes many times, family wants to see the body of their loved one.

2:52 I had a case yesterday where sweet little lady was found deceased by maintenance in her home and I think her daughter had talked to her.

3:05 It's been almost a week, probably a little less than a week.

3:09 Maintenance found her.

3:11 She had a walker and had a history of some fractures.

3:16 She was kind of slow getting around.

3:18 In the morning, she normally unlocked her front door in case friends or maintenance people came over.

3:26 It wasn't unusual for her front door to be unlocked.

3:29 And those are questions that we ask too many times the fire department has to gain injury.

3:35 And in this case, you know, it's like, why was the door open?

3:39 How did you get in?

3:40 She had been there for probably about five days.

3:44 The house was rather warm as sometimes it is in elderly people's homes because they are watching their bills.

3:51 Most of them are on a fixed income and they don't do like me and turn their air conditioner down to 67 every night when they go to bed and run all the fans.

4:02 It was rather warm in the house.

4:04 She was not a large lady, but she had her medical issues that would speed up her decomposition as well as the heat.

4:15 So I'm going to say that she'd probably been there about five days.

4:19 Her daughter who had a history of working in the health care field wanted to see her.

4:26 Now, this is not something that we normally do.

4:31 Some people are adamant and a lot of times you have to consider, I guess the customer service aspect, which is weird to think of because you wouldn't really think customer service would come into play in this position.

4:44 But it does very much so people are upset.

4:47 It's very often the worst day of their life.

4:50 And if they have one simple request, it's sometimes hard to say no.

4:55 When they say I want to see the body.

4:57 Now, in cases like this where there's decomposition, you kind of have to consider each case individually.

5:06 She had a history of working in the health care field.

5:09 She was a hospice nurse.

5:12 She had been around death before she had previously lost her father.

5:17 She wasn't new to the idea of death.

5:20 She was composed.

5:22 And so you kind of have to, like I said, on a case-by-case basis, you kind of have to look at it.

5:28 I felt like all those things put together with the fact that she just wanted to see her mom that I would honor her wishes.

5:39 And so I chose to allow it.

5:42 She handled herself very well.

5:44 I mean, she was obviously upset but she handled it very well.

5:50 Those are things that we do come up against on scenes all the time.

5:53 I know that previously I had been on a scene where there was a teenage boy who shot himself with a shotgun.

6:00 He had shot himself in the face.

6:03 Dad was adamant he wanted to see his son.

6:07 We always kind of try to encourage them to wait until the body is released from the medical examiner's office and sent to the funeral home before the family goes in.

6:18 You know, to view them that way.

6:20 It's a little cleaner.

6:22 The blood is kind of cleaned up, the wound is more visible, but the blood is kind of cleaned up.

6:28 I don't know which would be more traumatic honestly if it were my child, but he was adamant about seeing his son and I just explained to him, you know, sir, you know, I hate for you to remember him this way.

6:41 He's disfigured, you know, he shot himself in the face with a shotgun and he got angry and I mean, he wanted to go in there and see his son.

6:51 So, I let him, you know, he also handled it well, considering the circumstances but not everybody can.

7:00 It's very much a case-by-case basis, you kind of have to look at the family member and consider their background, consider their relationship with the person, consider the condition of the person.

7:14 You kind of have to take all of those things into consideration also.

7:19 I mean, just the understanding that, you know what, hey, something could go wrong, you know, if they go in there and see the body and they can have a heart attack.

7:28 I mean, just a lot of things can happen.

7:31 We have had family start to have panic attacks or chest pain at scenes.

7:38 We've had to call EMS for them.

7:40 It's not unusual for that to happen.

7:44 You just have to consider.

7:45 Again, in each case, some people do really well.

7:49 Again, some people not so much, but I noticed that people in the health care industry or people in law enforcement tend to sometimes do better in situations like that because they have some exposure, even though it's a family member, it's kind of a completely different thing, but they have had some exposure.

8:08 They're somewhat used to seeing people in that condition.

8:11 But returning from Atlanta, I survived, I survived my Lyft driver even though he said he lacked to abduct Lyft passengers, which I still think was very, very weird, very much enjoyed networking.

8:26 I mean, that was literally the greatest part of getting together with other people in the field is just networking since then.

8:37 I have many new podcast listeners.

8:40 Thank you very much and I have had many people email me and message me even on Facebook about stories that they would like for me to cover, which is great.

8:49 I had sat next to a coroner who is from New York, and she had asked me if I heard about a story that happened back in 2008.

9:05 It's kind of an older case, but it was a young girl in her twenties named Amanda Wykowski.

9:12Amanda was found upside down in a dumpster near the covenant United Church of Christ in Buffalo New York.

9:22 She was actually found on January 9th of 09.

9:27 She had last been seen by her mother on December 5th of 08.

9:33 So a little more than a month prior mom reported her missing two days later, 12, 7 of 08.

9:40 And then an officer found her again upside down in this dumpster on January 9th of the following year.

9:49 Now, Amanda was frozen and that's something again that we don't really think about a lot in Texas because I mean, we rarely get freezes here.

10:00 I mean, it happens, but it's not for long enough periods of time, but she was frozen and completely naked in this dumpster.

10:11 At the time she was found it was 21 degrees outside.

10:15 She was resting on her shoulders.

10:19 There were bags of garbage under her and of course, mucus from her nose and mouth, there were some bruises, and she did have a history of heroin abuse.

10:31 And so there were track marks on both of her arms.

10:33 She was a known heroin user.

10:36 She had on all her jewelry, she had on a necklace she had on earrings, she had her naval piercing.

10:41 She had a belly ring on her autopsy, you know, they do X rays.

10:46 And so she had no fractures, no hemorrhaging in her eyes.

10:52 She had contusions on her right cheek, her right jaw, her chin, her right forearm, she had lesions on her left and right hand and contusions on her left thigh and leg.

11:07 She did have a history of chronic hepatitis.

11:11 Her drug screen was positive for cannabinoids and ethanol.

11:16 Her death was ruled an accident.

11:19 The cause was acute opiate toxicity.

11:23 Mom, you know, rightly was not happy with this.

11:27 Things did not really piece together correctly.

11:30 Why was she nude a lot of things?

11:33 And of course they did not only toxicology, but they did swabs to check for sexual assault.

11:39 So they did vaginal swabs, anal swabs, fingernail, clipping, scraping under her fingernails.

11:47 All the things that we would always do in a sexual assault case because she was nude.

11:53 There were four people's DNA found on her body despite that fact, though it was still ruled an accident and it was still ruled acute opiate toxicity.

12:06 So mom hires an expert toxicologist and by the way, his credentials are amazing.

12:16 He's been published in journals.

12:18 I mean his background is just pristine.

12:21 His name is Ted Simon.

12:23 He came in and reviewed everything he said that acute opiate toxicity was highly unlikely and not supported by the evidence.

12:35 And of course, you know, mom believed this to be a homicide and the reason that she hired Mr. Simon was to come in and help her prove that now codeine and morphine concentrations in her body were within range for codeine being used for pain management.

12:54 They weren't like super high, and she was using codeine for pain management.

13:00 The cannabis metabolites suggests that it was used five days prior to death.

13:06 And even in our office, I mean, because it's legal in so many different places.

13:12 It's not in Texas but because it is, I mean, we don't even really look at that.

13:18 It's not unusual to find marijuana at someone's residence.

13:23 Yeah.

13:23 Long term use can cause problems.

13:25 But we don't really even look at that as you know, oh, my gosh, this person is on drugs.

13:30 We need to bring them in if they smoke, you know, a little weed.

13:34 They said that the metabolites that showed up in her toxicology suggest that it had been used during the five days prior to her death.

13:44 Alcohol level suggests that she may have consumed a single alcoholic beverage prior to her death.

13:52 She was very small.

13:54 She was tiny, not very tall.

13:56 Her blood alcohol level was not super high.

13:59 He said that she couldn't have been highly intoxicated that there was a possibility she had maybe one drink but not a lot.

14:08 Now there was GHB in her blood, but it was within normal range for postmortem production toxicology.

14:16 Very interesting.

14:17 A lot of it, I don't completely understand, but there are trace amounts of GHB produced endogenously in various tissues.

14:26 And the brain is one of them and it functions as a precursor and a metabolite of Gaba.

14:35 And so this is something that you normally do find in your system.

14:39 If it's given to you, it's rapidly metabolized.

14:43 Now, it is produced illegally in domestic and foreign laboratories and has euphoric and calming effects.

14:53 It can also help with weight loss, but it does naturally occur in your body.

14:59 Not a lot of people know that there was some in her bloodstream which was within normal range for postmortem production.

15:09 Now, Doctor Simon, after looking over everything and performing an autopsy, he ruled the death a homicide and said that she had been manually strangled and had blunt force injuries of her face, tongue, external genitalia, and upper and lower extremities.

15:33 Now, this is quite different from an accidental overdose.

15:39 And this guy was quite the expert. And come to find out the original doctor who performed the autopsy was made to step down from her position.

15:50 The one who ruled it an accident was made to step down from her position as I think she was assistant chief medical examiner at the time, there was some controversy there from the very beginning, I think she had been caught lying on the stand about another case.

16:07 There were some issues with her already and this case did not help her a bit.

16:13 Nonetheless, problems with that medical examiner per se who did the exam.

16:20 Now, a total of four autopsies were done on Amanda.

16:25 The first one showed the overdose, the second one manual strangulation and then two ruled the cause undetermined mom had filed what's called an article 78 which is basically asking the State Court to review the decision or action of a New York State official or agency that she believed to be unlawful because DNA evidence actually recovered matched that of an Adam Patterson who actually drove Amanda into a dangerous neighborhood in Buffalo New York on December 5th of 08, at 8:30 p.m. Patterson was at his home and Amanda was never seen again after that.

17:14 He is believed to be a part of this case and his DNA was found on her body along with an Antoine Garner, also two unidentified men and two unidentified women.

17:27 So all of their DNA was found on her body from all the swabs.

17:35 Number one, we know that she had had contact with these people.

17:40 She had what they called finger shaped bruises on her neck and body.

17:48 They believed that her body had been hidden for five weeks and then dumped in this garbage tote because they knew that it had not been there for that long because the trash is taken out more frequently than that.

18:01 But the doctor who left who retired or was let go, whichever happened, believe that she was just an addict who whatever, you know, jump naked headfirst into this dumpster, and then died because it was cold.

18:16 There were apparently no signs of hypothermia in her autopsy.

18:21 It's believed that she was dead prior to her body freezing.

18:27 It just looks suspicious.

18:28 I mean, she did have a lot of trauma on her body, although she had no broken bones, her nose wasn't fractured.

18:36 It's a very interesting story to look into actually.

18:39 And reviewing the autopsy report.

18:42 Mom just wants, I mean, not even if you can't prove it's a homicide, there is no reason that they can't change this cause of death to undetermined because there are so many doctors that are in agreement.

18:56 Apparently, it's just the medical examiner who won't go back in and change this on the death certificate.

19:06 Mom, from what I understand would even be happy if it was changed from undetermined.

19:12 But she does not believe it to be an accident.

19:16 And, you know, I don't either.

19:17 I mean, looking at all of her injuries, looking at the fact that, you know, her body was found five weeks later, it just looks really, really suspicious and I don't understand why they just won't change it and that's still in the works.

19:34 That's something that this poor mom has still been trying to get changed and she disappeared back in 08.

19:41 I mean, just imagine the continued grief that she's going through and it's not really about her just trying to make her daughter look good either.

19:50 It's about her trying to make the system do what's right.

19:56 You know, it's really sad that she's, I mean, she would relive this every day anyway because it's her daughter and it was, her death was completely unexpected, but it's really sad that she's having to fight for them to do.

20:09 What's right.

20:10 She's obviously had a lot of different people do exams on Amanda again.

20:16 One ruled it a homicide, two ruled it undetermined.

20:19 And then the one medical examiner who was under scrutiny anyway is the one that ruled it accidental.

20:27 I don't know the rules and laws in New York as well as I do Texas.

20:31 When it comes to this.

20:33 I just don't get it.

20:34 I don't get why the police won't reopen the investigation.

20:39 My thoughts are probably that they find a lot of flaws in the investigation itself and I just don't understand why, if there's any question at all, why they can't change the death certificate back in 2021.

20:55 Mom did file a lawsuit against Erie County and Erie County's Chief Medical Examiner.

21:02 The lawsuit is just calling for an amendment to the death certificate indicating her cause was either homicide or undetermined or just reopen the investigation so that it can be looked at more clearly.

21:17 And you know, it's really strange.

21:18 The Erie County district attorney, John Flynn even said that there was evidence to show that the first autopsy was not entirely correct.

21:30 How can you say that out loud and in public and still not go in and amend this death certificate.

21:37 I'm not getting it.

21:38 Anyway, this poor mom is still working diligently on this, years and years later.

21:44 It's stories like that, that of course, we, this is not in Texas, this is in New York.

21:50 We hadn't really heard of it.

21:51 And so when she asked me about it, she asked me to look into it.

21:54 She sent me a copy of the autopsy report and I am planning to reach out to this mom to see if she would like to be interviewed.

22:05 I love that.

22:05 People ask me to help to see if there's anything I can do.

22:08 I don't know if there is, but you know what if there is, I'd be willing to try.

22:14 I mean, I agree with everything I have seen.

22:17 It totally does not look like you can absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt rule this as an accidental drug toxicity death.

22:25 I mean, there's too many other things that have been found and too many other doctors that disagree, for them to say that this is what happened.

22:37 But anyway, this is a sad story.

22:39I wanted to talk about it a little bit because I've been looking into it again.

22:42 I'm reaching out to mom today to see if she'd be interested in an interview because I just like to hear like where she's out in the process couldn't find anything really recent since 2021.

22:53 I know that she's made contact with different people.

22:57 She's not giving up.

22:58 You know, I don't blame her.

23:00 I don't blame her at all.

23:02 Again.

23:02 Very different case.

23:04 And now one of the guys is in prison, one of the guys whose DNA was found on her is serving 18 years for raping and strangling another woman.

23:15 This guy has a previous history of doing just what they think he did to Amanda.

23:21 And his DNA was found on her body.

23:24 I just don't know how much more cut and dried it can be.

23:29 I don't know what it takes anyway.

23:32 I'll try to get answers working on it.

23:35 I hope everyone has an amazing week.

23:38 I hope that the county is good to us today.

23:42 I just hope that everyone is safe.

23:45 I know that again.

23:47 Oklahoma.

23:48 It has to be devastating.

23:49 And, and you know, the first thing I want to do because it's right down the road from me is literally run down there and help.

23:54 And I know that there's probably not a darn thing I can do.

23:59 And I know that they have a lot of help, but I think that nurses just want to help and that's just, it's inborn in us.

24:06 And so it's natural.

24:08 Like I said, when I saw the girl in Nashville get hit by the bus.

24:12 You know, what did I do?

24:13 I threw my purse at my husband, and I ran out there knowing that there is absolutely nothing I can do, traumatizing myself by watching her and seeing her suffer under the wheels of this bus that couldn't move.

24:27 But I felt the need to comfort her even though I couldn't do anything again, the bus couldn't move because she had internal injuries and they had just been instructed, you know, if you're on top of a person or you hit somebody, like, just don't move.

24:41 Although the people on the bus were jumping around like idiots.

24:43 And so we just normally want to run, we just normally want to help, and it did make me feel good again yesterday because I know, you know, sometimes when I let somebody view a body and I wonder, you know, oh my gosh, was that the right thing to do?

24:58 You know, should I not have done that?

25:00 Just the extreme appreciation from the family?

25:03 And the thank you’s, that means a lot.

25:06 And again, you can make the wrong decision sometimes, but she rightly understood all the risks and I believe she knew what she was about to see and wanted to see it anyway.

25:19 Again, that's just a call.

25:21 And I can't say that any of our other investigators would have allowed that.

25:24 I really can't.

25:25 And I did tell her that I said, you know, usually it's an absolutely no.

25:29 And of course the police ask me because the body is ours basically, and the scene is theirs.

25:36 I'm usually the one on scene or whoever the medical examiner is in our office, anyway, is the one who is able to make that decision.

25:44 I feel like it was a good one.

25:45 I feel like it was ok in this situation anyway.

25:49 Again, have a wonderful day and be sure and visit my Murder Merch store online.

25:55 We do have some more items that are going to be added this week, looking forward very much to rolling out our subscription box.

26:02 And if you're listening and you are interested in being a part of the pilot box that first comes out, let me know and you can be a VIP and give us some feedback on the box and play a big part in helping me to decide what's going to go in them and how they should be designed.

26:24 That's another process altogether.

26:26 Anyway, have an amazing day, an amazing week and again, stay safe and I look forward to talking to you next week.

26:33 Bye.

26:35 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing up Lilies.

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26:50 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at pushinguplilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.