FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Allen County Coroner ruled earlier this month that Charles White died by suicide.
His friends and family have trouble believing that. They think a medical event caused him to fall in.
On the morning of May 1, White’s body was found floating in the St. Marys River near Promenade Park.
At his small funeral weeks later, he was remembered as a gentle soul who enjoyed his children and grandchildren. He studied ministry in prison and often shared the hope he found in his Christian faith.
“When he called his grandkids, he always told them he loved them and to always say their prayers,” said Lisa Copprue, the mother of White’s oldest two children. “And he did it constantly every time.”
White’s story, like most people’s, was not tidy.
He had a clean criminal record until a 2006 assault on his wife. The violent episode lasted days and he was convicted of criminal deviate conduct, a class A felony, strangulation, a class D felony, and domestic battery, a class A misdemeanor.
WANE 15 was unable to locate the wife for this story.
Carol Heil, who met White after his 15-year prison sentence, describes a very different person.
“People should know how kind he was. Humble. He had the most beautiful eyes. He believed in hope and second chances, and reconciliation with his family.”
Heil and her husband Tom hired White to work for their mowing company to clear weeded lots as part of a work partnership with the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission. The company puts an emphasis on hiring people who have recently left prison and often have trouble finding employment.
“We got a call from David Pitcher at the Rescue Mission just saying that we needed to meet this one guy and that he had a great spirit and he would be great for our program,” added Tom. “And when we met him, we hired him immediately.
“He was a great person to work with, to pray with and to serve with.”
At the time of his death, White was living at the Rescue Mission for the second time. He had graduated earlier, finding full-time work, health insurance and his state issued ID.
That success hit a roadblock, when White was sent back to jail.
His family said he violated parole by staying too late at the mall, which WANE 15 was unable to confirm.
After his release, he returned to the Rescue Mission, where days later, Mission staff helped facilitate a meeting between Charles and one of his daughters and her children.
A second daughter and set of grandchildren were not able to attend that day but planned to meet later.
That was April 30.
White would be found in the river the next day.
He was 49 years old.