Stories, suspicious death, true crime

The Suspicious Death of Max Chamberlin

Disclaimer about my non-professional investigative skills

October 1st, 2017 media outlets were flooded with news of a shooting that occurred at a Las Vegas music festival. A mass shooting at an outdoor festival in the middle of the Las Vegas strip, that killed 58 people, reminded us we aren’t safe anywhere. For days, the nation was glued to news stations watching and waiting for any updates on why such a tragedy had to happen. We were reminded that life can change in an instant, to hug our loved ones, and to always be aware of our surroundings. The Chamberlin family experienced their own life-awakening tragedy the day before, on September 30th, 2017.

In the early morning hours of September 30th, 24-year-old Arizona State University student, Max Chamberlin, fell to his death from the 20th floor of his West Sixth apartment complex that he shared with his girlfriend. His death and the circumstances surrounding it are blanketed by inconsistency, secrecy, and confusion. Max’s family certainly don’t feel his death was investigated like it needed to be and they are left with more questions than answers. Perhaps questions still have life in Max’s death because of the events of the following day in Las Vegas. Tempe police were involved with the extensive Las Vegas investigation, thus limiting resources for outlying cases. So, with the facts available, decide if you think there was more to Max’s death than the limited investigation showed.

(In order to be responsible about individuals privacy, I will not be using certain names.) 

3:05 a.m. the Tempe police department starting receiving calls about a fall from a high-rise balcony. At least five separate calls were made to 911 for Max, curiously, none of those calls came from the other occupant of the apartment, Max’s girlfriend.

When police arrived at the scene, they discovered a male, face down on the sidewalk. They quickly taped off the scene and went up to the apartment to discuss the events with Max’s girlfriend who we will refer to as “Sally”. According to “Sally”,  she bought a 1.75-liter bottle of vodka that the two were drinking upon arriving home around 9:00 p.m. She continues on to say that they also smoked marijuana and Max wanted to continue smoking, which led to an argument. The police report details the alcohol bottle 3/4 consumed and food all over the kitchen countertops and floor. “Sally,” tells officers that Max belligerently made a mess out the cake she made for him during the argument. In “Sally’s” statement to police she said that she went to the bedroom and told Max to leave. She said she stayed in the bedroom around fifteen minutes and Max said he was going to leave. “Sally” stated, “she thought she heard a door close”, and went out to see if Max left. She looked in the living room and then proceeded to the balcony because she saw the door was open. She said she peered over the railing and saw what looked like a person laying on the pool balcony below, she adds that she just thought Max walked down there and passed out.

It appeared to officers as if the heated argument led Max to go out onto the balcony where he proceeded to either fall or jump off. Here’s where things get confusing though…

In “Sally’s” statement, she said that Max was extremely intoxicated and smoking marijuana, however, the medical examiner’s toxicology report starts to paint a different picture of what may have happened. Max’s blood alcohol level was only 0.05% which does not reflect a night filled with drinking, I don’t think he would have even appeared intoxicated with such low levels. Certainly not enough to say he would “pass out drunk”. The toxicology screen also showed ZERO cannabinoids in Max’s system. Seeing as how cannabis will stay in the system for 30 or so days, Max was not and had not been smoking marijuana within the past month.

The medical examiner also noted Max having “clean” hands and nails, which would have been hard to pull off if he had just smeared a cake all over the kitchen. Questionable at the very least.

An even bigger issue is “Sally’s” reaction to seeing Max as she peered over the balcony. She didn’t rush down to check on him, she didn’t call the police to check on him, she called her mother and proceeded to have a 5-7 minute conversation with her at 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, multiple other concerned bystanders begin calling 911 trying to get Max some assistance. I would have rushed down to check on a stranger if I saw what she had to have seen.

There’s also the underlying issue of “Sally” being quite abusive towards Max. There are multiple witnesses to abusive fights, texts, and treatment of Max by “Sally”. There was even one reported fight where she scratched Max’s face several times. Max seemed like a sweet, laid-back type of guy that just sat there and took the abuse. Let’s not forget the fact that most men do not report being abused, so it doesn’t get the same spotlight as domestic violence towards women. Domestic violence is domestic violence, it’s not okay in any situation and can often be a precursor to something much worse. Report it, don’t ignore it, take it seriously, punish it seriously.

Max’s face after an attack from “Sally”

A Facebook page, Truth for Max Chamberlin was created by Max’s father Mike, who is vigilantly fighting for answers for his son. He is doing his best to be Max’s voice now that he can no longer speak. On this page, Mike describes the lengths he had to go through to recover Max’s phone and laptop from “Sally”.  Mike stated, “We had to get the police involved in order to get Max’s laptop back from his girlfriend, which she had for two months after his death. The day his laptop was returned to the police department we found that files, pictures, and videos were missing. His icloud account was purged by someone who had access to it from his computer, so his phone was also wiped of information including countless texts and voice recordings that showcased the abuse of Max by his girlfriend. When we got the laptop restored we found that the deleted files also highlighted the abuse by Max’s girlfriend.”

Luckily, the laptop and phone are with a forensic team now trying to recover everything they can. If everything happened according to her statements, why on Earth would she want to delete the last traces of Max she had left? Was she concerned the focus would shift to her once the abuse was known?

Mike’s pain doesn’t just stop at losing Max, he has to fight every day to find answers to what really happened to his son. “Sally” initially told him it was a good evening. She has and continues to refuse to talk to Max’s family about that night. “Sally’s” mother has also chimed in, letting Mike know “Sally” will not be speaking to him. Again, if everything happened the way her statement says it did, then what is the problem with helping Max’s family gain closure?

Falls off of high-rise balconies are not new for Arizona. Another incident happened in 2014 when a student was heavily intoxicated, lost her balance, and fell to her death from an 11th-floor balcony. Perhaps law enforcement was overwhelmed with the Las Vegas shooting and assumed Max’s case was the same scenario.

Maybe “Sally” was in the bedroom minding her own business when it happened, but why create such an elaborate story if you did nothing wrong? Obviously, with only having parts of the story, we can only speculate as to what happened.

My best assumption/theory is that “Sally” was the level of intoxication she claimed Max was, there was a fight, but “Sally” was the one destroying the apartment, not Max. I found a witness statement from Cedric Moore, who lived above Max and “Sally”, that said, “everybody that had snapped me this morning had said ‘Hey, look somebody had fallen off”. Moore continued, “everybody was like ‘Hey, I was at the party right across the way and we all saw somebody just roll off and free fall.'” This statement makes me wonder if something happened inside the apartment, Max was unconscious or possibly dead, and “Sally” rolled him off the balcony to cover it up.

If it wasn’t for the witness statement claiming several people saw Max “roll” off and free fall, I could give more credence to Max accidentally or purposely falling off. It’s not impossible, it just doesn’t seem as likely to me, taking into consideration the only witness statements we have that are corroborated, saw him roll off. “Sally’s” statement was almost completely proven inaccurate simply based on the autopsy. So what are your thoughts about Max’s death?

So many questions, so few answers, and a family’s immeasurable grief. Follow the Facebook page Truth for Max and stay updated with Max’s case, and help support the Chamberlin family by sharing Max’s story and bringing awareness to domestic violence as they continue to fight for answers. Be a light in the darkness.

Half a world away

Feels the same as half

a universe

I’ll set my sails today

and hope they reach your

body first

~ By Max









Sources Include:
Justice for Max
State Press

2 thoughts on “The Suspicious Death of Max Chamberlin”

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