WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A man found dead in a suitcase in a suburban park was a drug "mule" who had 50 packets of heroin in his body and probably died when one or two of them broke open, police said Tuesday.
The heroin, worth an estimated $100,000 on the streets, was found during the man's autopsy, said Westchester County police spokesman Kieran O'Leary.
The man, estimated to be 50 to 60 years old, has not been identified. Investigators don't know who put him in the suitcase found Thursday in Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers, O'Leary said.
But it probably wasn't the drug dealers who were expecting the man's shipment, because they likely would have cut his body open for the drugs, he said.
"We've seen that on occasions in the past," O'Leary said. "How he got to the park with the drugs still inside him is still a piece of the puzzle."
Detectives believe the man traveled from the Dominican Republic because of something else he was carrying, the spokesman said. Police would not identify that item.
Dealers hire mules to smuggle narcotics into the country by swallowing drug-filled condoms or other containers. After they arrive, the packets are excreted. But if one breaks inside a person, a fatal overdose is possible.
While the man's cause of death had not been confirmed, one or two of the packets inside him were broken, O'Leary said. There was no outward sign of violence or trauma.
The man probably died a day or two before he was found, the spokesman said. The body was discovered when a parks worker went to remove the abandoned black canvas suitcase near the park's entrance and the victim's leg popped out.
His fingerprints did not match any in U.S. databases, so he probably was never arrested in this country, O'Leary said. Police said he was 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 168 pounds and had abdominal scars from past surgery.