Author: Alex Caprariello
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly one month after workers discovered 18-year-old Silas Strimple’s body on a conveyor belt in northeast Austin, his father is sharing a heartfelt tribute about his son’s potential and working to destigmatize mental health in America.
On March 24, 2021, Travis County deputies responded to the Balcones Resources recycling facility after workers discovered a body on a conveyor belt. The sheriff’s office found no signs of foul play but labeled Strimple’s death suspicious considering its uniqueness.
Strimple’s body is the third to be discovered at a Travis County recycling center in a little more than one year.
After contacting next-of-kin, authorities revealed Strimple was a transient who had recently relocated to Austin from his home in Eugene, Oregon.
Strimple’s father, Skutch Lucika, said it was a decision his son made after years of battling a debilitating mental illness that isolated him from others.
Lucika called his son kind hearted and naturally gifted. He was a talented musician who played guitar, bass and drums. But his reputation was most widely known for his ability to fearlessly skateboard.
“He began at a young age and excelled at it,” Lucika said. “He was well loved by lots of people, and he was kind hearted.”
However, in his early teens, doctors began noticing early signs of schizophrenia. Lucika said Strimple began to distance himself from his family as he developed paranoia and showed manic symptoms. Lucika said he denied medications despite their ability to calm him. It’s what ultimately drove him to Austin as he searched for a new life and purpose.
“He was ill, and he couldn’t heal himself in the ways he needed to be healed,” Lucika said. “As the illness took him over, it just slowly suffocated the life out of him.”
It’s still unclear how Strimple ended up at the Balcones Resources recycling center.
Travis County authorities have been able to track down the last known surveillance photographs of him, from multiple locations, wearing a dark grey flannel, light pants and something under his arm.
Hours later, his body was discovered at the center. Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kristen Dark said investigators do not believe the death occurred at Balcones Resources.
“Our investigation is focused on the last hours of the decedent’s life to determine whether or not this is an accidental death or if this happened another way,” Dark said. “Just because a body may end up in a recycling center in the county doesn’t mean that’s where the person died.”
However, the discovery of Strimple’s body at the center is not entirely unique.
Barely one year prior, on March 12, 2020, the body of 31-year-old Collen LeBlanc was also discovered on the conveyor belt at Balcones Resources. Authorities did not discover signs of foul play.
Then on December 7, 2020, employees sorting materials at the Texas Disposal Systems recycling center in southeast Austin discovered the body of 62-year-old Randall Shinault on a conveyor belt. Again, no signs of foul play, but the case continues to be investigated as a suspicious death.
Dark tells me detectives are not connecting all three cases, but that each is being studied independently. Strimple and Shinault’s deaths continue to be investigated, but the case of LeBlanc has been closed. The only connection the Travis County Sheriff’s Office is drawing is that each victim was considered homeless.
While Lucika certainly wants answers as to how his son ended up on a conveyor belt in northeast Austin, he’d rather turn the conversation to mental health awareness. He said he and other friends had tried to provide resources to Strimple or ensure he took his medications. He said he knows there are many others who are struggling through their own mental health disorders.
Lucika contends if there wasn’t a stigma around talking about it, his son might have been more willing to seek help.
“There are so many kids out there in the same situation. There’s things that he could have gone through, different programs. But he wasn’t in the right mind to facilitate those things or take care of those,” Lucika said. “Focus on his life and also on the need for mental health resources in the country. It’s something that really isn’t being focused on, and the stigma surrounding mental illness is really tough.”