The dramatic suicide of a Berkeley man last week led police to a second gruesome discovery two days later, a badly decomposed male corpse walled up inside the first floor laundry room.
Today (Tuesday) Berkeley police announced that the Alameda County coroner was able to identify the remains using dental record as those of Taruk Joseph Ben Ali. It is not yet known how or when Ali, born in 1968, had died.
A caller’s report on Dec. 15 of a loud argument brought officers to the building at 2235 Ashby Ave. Monday night, and they were directed to the apartment of Hassan Bin Ali, 60.
Once the officers were inside the apartment, Bin Ali “pulled a handgun, put it to his head and subsequently took his own life,” said Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel.
The police daily bulletin for Dec. 15 lists the time of the shot as 5:55 p.m.
Mortally wounded, he was rushed to Highland Hospital by a Berkeley Fire Department ambulance, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Frankel said that the older Ali had lived alone, and officers don’t know whom he was arguing with at the time they were called. “We haven’t heard any reports of anyone seen coming or going, so it could’ve been an argument over the telephone,” he said.
During the subsequent investigation, “officers on the scene found evidence that led them to believe another crime may have been committed.”
Based on that evidence, detectives obtained a search warrant and began a thorough search of the building, leading to the discovery of the body entombed behind a wall on the first floor.
While one published account cited a neighbor who had described Bin Ali as paranoid before his suicide, Frankel said he had spoken to a neighbor who had been shocked that the man had taken his own life.
Frankel said the cause of death of the body in the wall was being listed as “suspicious,” rather than as a homicide. He asked anyone with any information about Bin Ali and the case to call police at 981-6900.
Berkeley firefighters were called to the scene after the body was discovered to assist with biohazard containment, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
Berkeley police were responsible for retrieving the remains, which were contained in a large coffin-sized wooden box.
“We provided tools and equipment,” said Deputy Chief Dong.
Once police and firefighters had completed their phase of the removal, Arturo Sopon and his private cleanup team Morgan Environmental Service, an Oakland firm licensed by the state to handle hazardous waste and trauma scenes, arrived to finish the job, donning Tyvek suits, protective masks, boots and gloves, taping over the seams to prevent exposure.
“We clean up bodily fluids,” Sopon said, adding that work often spiked over the Christmas season and during summer months.