Mystery sorrounds fate of gifted MIT graduate found dead in his Chicago apartment with bomb-making equipment for three different explosive devices
Theodore Hilk, 30, was found dead in his Streeterville, Chicago condo on Tuesday
Two floors of residents of the condo complex were evacuated after explosive substances were found
Hilk, a ‘genius’ MIT graduate was described as ‘off the charts gifted’ by his high school counselor, who received a perfect score, a 36, on his ACT in 2007
Police conducting a welfare check on Hilk after a concerned call from his father, discovered he’d been dead for days
Chicago’s Special Functions Division unit safely disposed of the materials which had sickened responding officers, prompting the nvitation of a hazmat team
The circumstances around his death, how and reasons for his explosive possessions remain unclear
A death investigation in Chicago turned into a potentially explosive situation on Wednesday, after police responding to reports of a dead body found a potentially volatile substance in the man’s home.
The dead man, 30-year-old Theodore Hilk, reportedly a ‘genius’ MIT graduate who was described as ‘off the charts gifted’ by his high school counselor was found dead in his Chicago condo unit surrounded by explosives at 11:30pm on Tuesday.
Theodore Hilk’s father called police because he had not heard from his son in several days. The father drove to his son’s apartment from another city.
Officers found Hilk dead and decomposing, police Superintendent David Brown said.
As responding officers were investigating, a strong odor coming from the residence began making officers sick which prompted the invitation of the Chicago Fire Department’s hazardous materials team.
Returning to the apartment about 4 p.m. officers found the explosive material and called the FBI, police said.
Police initially thought was that the chemicals may have been for some sort of drug use, but that turned out not to be the case. Furthermore, the hazmat team was unable to determine if there were any chemicals, partly because of the state of the apartment, which police described as “a little bit of a hoarding type of situation” with things unorganized, furniture overturned and boxes everywhere.
“There was a very difficult time trying to figure out where this substance was that was making people sick,” Brown said.
Having determined that the chemical was not drug-related, Brown said, the bomb unit was called in, and detectives found there were bomb-making substances and materials throughout the apartment.
Lead Azide, a substance most often used commercially as a detonator for large explosives, in Hilk’s condo, Brown confimed Thursday morning.
The explosive material was transported from the apartment in a white blast-proof container which Chicago police said had all been disposed of safely, by the Special Functions Division. Police said the site was cleared by 11pm on Wednesday.
A neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, told CBS Chicago they had closed their vents in fear that dangerous chemicals were loose in the air.
She said: ‘We didn’t know if there was something in the vents. So we turned off the vents in our house. We opened up the windows,’
‘There was a lot of police communication through the building telling us they’re conducting tests and everybody should stay put,’ she said.
‘The concern was: what was going in that apartment really?’
She said residents had googled Hilk in effort to find out why he had stored explosive chemicals his flat.She explained: ‘Somebody was googling them, and he seems like he had a pretty educated background. So we were more worried, what was he doing, what was he thinking?’
How Hilk got hold of the cache of explosives and what he intended to use them for remains unclear.
He was declared dead at 4am on Wednesday but is believed to have died days earlier. Police said the body had already started decomposing when it was discovered.
Any autopsy to determine the cause of death is underway with results from the Medical Examiner expected in the coming days.
Hilk who is originally from Kansas and went to school in Shawnee, on the outskirts of Kansas City was described as a very intelligent individual and received a perfect score, a 36, on his ACT in 2007.
High school counselor Carolyn Devane said: ‘I have only known a handful of those who have scored a 36.
‘I think his greatest struggle at times might have been the social side of being a teenager and being so off the charts gifted.’
The 30-year-old graduated from MIT, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, and math, in 2013. He went on to work as a day trader at Headlands Technologies in Chicago until 2015.
After the man identified as Hilk, was found dead around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, later in the day, new information led police to determine they should return to the high-rise condo complex.
The FBI, a SWAT team, and the CPD bomb unit also came to the scene late Wednesday. Investigators confirmed that potentially explosive materials were found in the unit where they found Hilk’s body.