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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Family of Merrimack drowning victim looking for answers

NASHUA – Abel Urena doesn’t accept that it was his father he saw inside a casket at a Nashua funeral home.

It just didn’t look like him. ...

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NASHUA – Abel Urena doesn’t accept that it was his father he saw inside a casket at a Nashua funeral home.

It just didn’t look like him.

It was the first time anyone in Lucas Urena’s family had seen him since Aug. 4 when his step-daughter Clara Benjamin had dropped him off at his Vine Street home after a trip to Pennsylvania to visit family and to visit Washington, D.C., fulfilling Lucas’ lifelong dream to see the White House.

“He always dreamed to see it,” Benjamin said. “We spent a great weekend with him.”

Benjamin and several members
of the Urena family gathered Thursday at her Nashua home to talk about their father, their role model and the unanswered questions they still have more than a week after police said they found him dead in a Merrimack pond.

“We need answers by police, and they don’t want to give us any information,” Abel Urena’s girlfriend, Ashley Sanchez, said, translating for Lucas’ daughter, Ana Urena. There’s no “concrete evidence it is our father.”

Police say they found Lucas Urena in Bowers Pond after two teenagers spotted a body in the water the morning of Aug. 4. Nashua police had issued an alert that the 78-year-old Nashua man was missing just hours earlier.

While police continue to try to piece together a timeline of his final hours, Urena’s family is frustrated by what they say they feel is a lack of information from police even as they fret over oddities in what police say happened.

Chief among those questions is how Lucas Urena ended up in Merrimack when walking long distances was painful for him.

Urena had calluses on his feet, Benjamin said, that made it impossible for him to walk for very long. He would walk from his Vine Street apartment to the City Hall area or to family members’ homes nearby, but would often have to sit and take his shoes off to ease the pain.

His family is convinced he couldn’t have walked the roughly 5 miles between his home and where he was found. If he was going to walk anywhere, it would be to visit one of his children, they said.

“He always liked to stay around the family,” Benjamin said. “That’s why this all sounds very strange to us.”

Urena suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, but his mind was sound. His family hadn’t noticed any changes in his behavior or any “erratic” behavior, Benjamin said.

He still had plans and things he wanted to do. Doctors wanted to operate on his eye, and he had an appointment to have an MRI the afternoon he disappeared. He wanted to get the surgery over with so he could visit his native Dominican Republic, Benjamin said.

She said an autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner was inconclusive, but an examiner called Benjamin and asked if her stepfather was an alcoholic because of the condition of his liver. Not only was he not an alcoholic, Benjamin said – he never drank at all.

Two details of the condition of Urena’s body also vex her. She said he was fully dressed but wasn’t wearing the white undershirt under his dress shirt he had been wearing earlier in the day. There was also an undissolved pill in his pocket despite the time his body spent in the water, Benjamin said.

There also are the stories a few people have relayed to the family about a woman who was seen dragging Lucas Urena by the arm. Where she was dragging him – or if she exists – is unknown.

“He was a role model to us,” Benjamin said. “He never had a problem with anyone.”

Ana Urena said she is upset her family didn’t have an opportunity to see their father’s body before it was sent to Concord for the autopsy. Now funeral home directors recommend they don’t view the body, and they are left with doubts – enough doubts that they’re reluctant to bury the body until they’re sure it is that of their father.

“Just the way he died sounds very suspicious,” Benjamin said. “It sounds fishy. Very fishy. There’s things that don’t make any sense to the family. It’s impossible, almost impossible.”

One thing detectives and the Urena family agree on is they want anyone who saw Lucas to talk to police.

Merrimack Police Lt. Denise Roy said previously police believe Urena walked to the pond and that foul play is not suspected. She believes someone would have seen him, given the number of people in the area, including those at two sizeable condominium complexes, Brookstone and Pennichuck Waterworks, all of which are nearby.

Merrimack police issued an appeal on Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday asking anyone who saw Urena on Daniel Webster Highway near the Merrimack-
Nashua town line or near Bowers Pond to call.

Urena is described as a balding Hispanic man last seen wearing a white dress shirt and black pants. Anyone who has information or may have seen him is asked to call Merrimack police at 424-3774.

Bowers Pond is off Al Paul Lane, a short access road near the campus of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. It is near Pennichuck Brook, which runs beneath the nearby F.E. Everett Turnpike. At the end of the road is property owned by the Nashua Fish & Game Club.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached
at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote
on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).