Texts suggest missing man overdosed before being buried in Long Beach yard, warrant says

The body of a man found buried in the backyard of a Long Beach home last month may have been encased in cement and hidden there after a night of drug-use gone bad, according to newly revealed court documents.

Zach Kennedy, a 31-year-old Long Beach man, was reported missing by his boyfriend on Oct. 31. More than six months later, detectives unearthed Kennedy’s remains in the backyard of a home in the 500 block of West Eighth Street, police said.

At that time, investigators revealed few details about what led them to Kennedy’s body, but a 28-page search warrant shows detectives spent months searching for him and eventually uncovered a string of text messages that described him possibly overdosing on Oct. 22, the night he disappeared.

Witness accounts, phone records and financial transactions all pointed to the Eighth Street home as the last place Kennedy was seen, according to the warrant, which was publicly filed in Long Beach Superior Court last month.

The Long Beach Post is choosing not to name the man who lives at the home because he has not been arrested or charged with a crime. He did not respond to a note left at his home earlier this month.

Medical examiners are still working to determine whether Kennedy’s death was caused by an overdose or something else, according to police. Authorities are waiting for a completed autopsy report before deciding whether to file any charges, a spokesman for the Long Beach Police Department said.

Police say they uncovered Zach Kennedy’s body after digging in the yard of a home in the 500 block of West Eighth Street. (Staff Photo Thomas R Cordova)

In the search warrant, police say the man who lives at the Eighth Street home was friends with Kennedy. Kennedy was with him in the basement on the afternoon of Oct. 22, according to another man who was at the house, detectives say in the warrant.

Detectives wrote that the witness, who was on his way out of the house, said Kennedy and Kennedy’s friend were in the basement to engage in sexual fetishes, including one that involved Kennedy zipping himself into a large vacuum-sealing plastic bag.

Later that night, Kennedy’s friend began sending text messages to another man, according to the warrant.

Around 9:50 p.m., the friend sent a series of texts asking for help moving Kennedy, who was slumped in the tub, the document says. The messages said Kennedy had only a faint pulse and that he was “in a g-hole,” slang for taking too much GHB, detectives wrote. GHB is known as a date-rape drug. It is a depressant that is also sometimes taken recreationally.

“He’s going to remember it for a bit. He bit his tongue b4 I got to him,” the friend texted, according to the warrant.

Later, the friend texted photos of Kennedy with his face resting against the side of the tub, according to the warrant. Detectives wrote he appeared to be unconscious or already dead.

Police searched the home on Eighth Street three times in the months after Zach Kennedy disappeared, according to court documents. (Staff Photo Thomas R Cordova)

“Could not find pulse for a bit and freaked especially after the first cop call,” the friend texted around 10 p.m., according to the warrant.

About an hour later, Kennedy’s friend texted again, “Call me 911,” according to the warrant. The next morning though, he sent another message saying everything was fine and Kennedy had “popped up like nothing happened,” detectives wrote.

Police said, however, that they haven’t been able to find anyone who saw Kennedy after that night.

Kennedy’s father, Jeff Kennedy, recently brought his son’s body back to his home state of Pennsylvania for a funeral. He said he’s been left questioning why more wasn’t done to help his son the night he disappeared.

“He could’ve threw him in his car and drove him to the hospital,” Jeff Kennedy said.

In the warrant, police said they could find no record of Zach Kennedy being admitted to a hospital nor any 911 calls from the Eighth Street home on Oct. 22.

The friend has refused to talk to detectives about their investigation, instead sending them to his attorney, Ese Omofoma, according to the warrant. Omofoma told the Long Beach Post he could not talk about the case.

Zach Kennedy. Courtesy Jeff Kennedy.

According to court documents, police searched the Eighth Street home three separate times after Zach Kennedy went missing.

They first swept through on Nov. 3 and again on March 19, but they did not find Zach Kennedy’s body despite using dogs trained to sniff out cadavers, according to court records.

They tried again with the third search warrant on May 3, which is when they discovered Zach Kennedy’s remains, according to court documents.

In that final warrant, detectives said they had a new piece of information. They wrote they’d found security video showing the friend from Eighth Street at a nearby Home Depot the day after Zach Kennedy disappeared.

The video shows the man buying tools, bags of concrete mix, plastic mattress bags and stretch wrap, according to the warrant. He also rented a handheld auger, detectives wrote.

In the warrant, police said they suspect the friend used the auger to dig a hole on his property to hide the body.

“[I] believe [he] most likely wrapped up [the] body in the mattress bag and stretch wrap in order to conceal the emitting stench of decomposition,” one detective wrote. “[I believe he] then potentially placed [the] body into the freshly dug hole and encased him in cement.”

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children, Paul and Simon.
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