Murder by uranium: ‘Accused’ investigates a 1984 case originally deemed a suicide

True Crime September 22, 2021
Accused podcast image
Listen to ‘Accused’

Mentioned in this week’s Podsauce episode with Andy Holloway, “Accused” is an investigative true crime podcast from the Cincinnati Enquirer and Wondery. For the first two seasons, host Amber Hunt and her team looked into the Ohio murder cases of Elizabeth Andes and Retha Welch. But the third season is different and the stakes are larger than ever.

Hunt is quick to point out that the first two seasons of “Accused” are similar in that they are focused on people who were most definitely murdered in cold blood. Both seasons ask the question: was the right person charged, or is a killer still loose? But the third season asks a different question: did David Bocks commit suicide, as officials allege, or was he murdered? Or furthermore, is he perhaps still alive?

Hunt introduces us to the Fernald Feed Materials Production Center, a huge factory located near the rural town of New Baltimore, Ohio. Most of the residents who lived near the plant assumed it was a Purina pet food facility, having no idea that it was actually a uranium processing plant run by the U.S. government as part of the arm’s race of the cold war. Workers at the plant had to sign contracts stating that they would not speak about the exact workings of the plant; a breach would consist of a $10,000 fine and a 5-year prison stint.

On June 19th, 1984, 39-year-old David Bocks didn’t rejoin his coworker to be driven back to his car parked at a White Castle. He didn’t clock out of his shift, in fact. And in questioning, nobody had laid eyes on Bocks for several hours. A few hours later, a furnace operator showed his supervisor something strange within the machinery. In the molten salt, as hot as lava, was a black, sooty crust sitting on top of the viscous liquid. The operator had never seen anything like it, and even thought he saw a bone in the vat, but his supervisor merely told him to keep working and mix it in.

Hours after this, the workers at the Fernald plant put two and two together, and realized that the sooty crust on top of the vat was because David Bocks had fallen into the 1350 degree Fahrenheit vat. Three days later, pieces of his bones, his eyeglasses and a walkie-talkie were uncovered inside that vat.

The police dismissed the case as a suicide, but many people in and out of the facility thought that was not the case. The physics didn’t make sense. How would Bocks have been able to shut the vat after he crawled into what was essentially lava? How would a man as large as Bocks have been able to fit through the tiny ports in the side of the furnace?

“Accused” investigates this mysterious case. Bocks family believes he was murdered by one or more of his coworkers who suspected him of being a whistleblower. Others believe he did not actually die, but disappeared. The police’s lack of effort in the investigation and quick dismissal as a suicide has left many suspicious of a cover-up. Are government secrets involved? Are Fernald officials behind his potentially gruesome death? Listen to the most recent season of “Accused” to hear more.

Listen to ‘Accused’

New shows we love...

Join Our Newsletter

The best podcasts to listen to next, delivered right to your inbox every week.

By clicking Submit, you acknowledge you have read and agree to our Website and Digital Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.