Father 'appalled' by LSU police recordings, calls for terminations

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One week before his disappearance, LSU student Michael Nickelotte, Jr., went out and bought new clothes. Two days before he disappeared, he bought a new set of sheets for his LSU campus apartment and he and his father, Michael Nickelotte Sr., enjoyed a long bike ride together on a biking trail near their home in Covington, Louisiana.

"Michael seemed fine. He was planning his life, nothing was out of the ordinary," his father recalled during an emotional phone conversation with WAFB Friday.

In a combination of a phone call with WAFB and a written statement he provided, the student's father says the investigation into his son's case by the LSU Police Department was filled with "insensitivity and incompetence."

Michael Nickelotte Jr. disappeared on September 18, 2017. The student left a note, his father revealed publicly for the first time Friday, saying he was "going on a trip and would not be returning." The note also said he believed an injury to his knee would prevent him from fulfilling his dream of joining the Marines, his father said.


His body was found was found 11 days later in woods near LSU. His death was ruled a suicide.

His devastated father is still desperate for answers. He believes some of those answers could come by finding out more about his son's enrollment in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at Southern University.

The student's failure to show up for an early morning NROTC physical training program was the first sign of trouble on September 18. His parents were called at 8:35 a.m. and told Michael had not shown up. LSU police were then sent to his campus apartment.

Nickelotte believes something likely happened to his son in that NROTC program that devastated him. If so, what was it? He believes police need to further question those leading and those enrolled in the program.

"This is the first time I am hearing of this, so no comment at this time," Southern spokesperson, Janene Tate, said Friday. "I will be sure to let the administration know that this has been brought up."

"He never exhibited or was diagnosed with any kind of psychological abnormality," Michael Nickelotte Sr. said in a written statement about his son's death that he shared with WAFB Friday. "He wanted his Commission as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps more than anything in the world."

Nickelotte is also outraged by a nearly two-hour recording of LSU police officers discussing his son's case and other cases, including the hazing death of LSU student, Max Gruver.

Last September, LSU police took a recorder from Michael Nickelotte's LSU apartment as they searched for clues into his disappearance. They apparently did not realize the recorder was voice-activated and nearly two hours of their often profanity-laced conversations were recorded.

After his death, the recorder was sent to the student's family along with his other personal items. His mother, Paulla, hoping to hear her son's voice again, listened to the recording and discovered the police conversations.

The family provided LSU with a copy of the recording last month.

In the recording, LSU police criticize the student's father for his many emails and phone calls seeking answers from them. And they make light of the fact he had asked police to search the LSU lakes for his son.

"The lake," one of the officers is heard questioning on the recording. "It's four foot deep and bodies float. So unless, unless, unless the kid went and made him some concrete shoes, he uh, or concrete belt, he should be floating around if he's in the lake."

Another officer is heard saying he's about "to start writing up a fu**ing report for ol' missing boy."

"With this small sampling of the whole 11-day ordeal of my son's disappearance, I can only imagine that there were far worse things said," Michael Nickelotte Sr. wrote. "The comments recorded are damning. They exhibit behavior that is far below professional and ethical standards. I am appalled by the utter disdain toward myself and my reaction as a parent to our horrific situation."

In the recording, LSU Officer Kevin Scott is heard telling other officers about dark internet websites he's viewed, including one in which American kids are kidnapped and tortured. And another website in which a man dressed as a woman performs sex acts on a dead cow.

The officers also discuss the hazing death of LSU student Max Gruver, which happened around the same time as Nickelotte's death.

They talk about how one student who was part of the hazing in the Gruver case only pretended to be drinking alcohol and spit out the alcohol each time the lights went out.

Also on the recording, LSU Officer Sarah Drake refers to one of the suspects in the Gruver case as "that motherfu**er who cried."

"He broke down like a bitch," she said. Another officer, who we don't know the identity of, mocks the way that same student allegedly cried after being arrested. "Oh, my life is over, I've got law school," the officer recalled the student saying.

As a result of the recording, LSU says Officer Kevin Scott resigned from the university. However, sources say Scott told LSU he planned to leave LSU long before the university was made aware of the recording. LSU says four other officers heard on the recording were disciplined and will undergo further training, including Captain Steve Kazusky, Lt. David Abeles, and Officers Sara Drake and Chris Gresham.

Michael Nickelotte Sr. says he believes Drake and Gresham should be terminated. "No amount of disciplinary action of retraining can help any of them," he said.

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