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Coroner: Former NFL player, IU star James Hardy killed himself

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — James Hardy, the historic Fort Wayne sports star and former NFL player found dead in the Maumee River last month, killed himself, the Allen County Coroner’s Office announced Wednesday.

Hardy’s body was found June 7 in a logjam at the Hosey Dam along the Maumee River. An employee with the city’s Water Filtration Plant conducting his regular rounds spotted the body as he walked along the catwalk, and called police.

A fire rescue crew recovered his remains. The Allen County Coroner’s Office confirmed the identity a day later, but said they were not able to determine how Hardy died.

Six weeks later, the coroner’s office wrote in a news release Wednesday afternoon that Hardy died of “asphyxia due to drowning.” His death was ruled a suicide.

Michael Burris, the chief investigator with the Allen County Coroner’s Office, told NewsChannel 15 that a thorogh investigation was conducted before the office made its ruling.

“We take a look at the past history, both medical, including psych, and law enforcement contacts to give us a picture of the mental state of the individual,” Burris wrote in an e-mail to NewsChannel 15. “We spoke with his mother, and developed a time line from the last time he was seen, along with certain evidence that was found both away from the body and on the body itself to help us make the determination. We worked closely with the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to gather the needed information and evidence to support our findings.”

Hardy was a former multi-sport standout at Elmhurst High School and runner-up for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. He ended his career as one of the most prolific scorers in Fort Wayne high school basketball before graduating in 2004.

Hardy went on to play football and basketball at Indiana University. During his time at IU, he quit basketball to focus his efforts on football, and became greatest receiver in Hoosiers history. Hardy owns IU receiving records for career receptions, yards and touchdowns.

Hardy was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2008 after entering the draft following his junior year. He also played for the Baltimore Ravens before being released in 2011.

After word of Hardy’s death spread, Indiana University’s athletics department and the Buffalo Bills, along with several local and professional sports stars, shared memories of the athlete.

After his athletic career ended, Hardy modeled briefly, but his life seemed to veer off-track. He was arrested in Los Angeles for resisting arrest in a confrontation with police in 2014, but a judge later ruled that he was not mentally competent to stand trial.

After that, Hardy kept a low profile.

Hardy had been back in Fort Wayne for three weeks before he went missing. His mother, Jeanie Summerville, reported her son missing after his car was found abandoned on Spy Run Avenue May 26. She told NewsChannel 15 that Hardy told her the day before that he had to leave town or he’d die.

It remains unclear what he meant by that.

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