Chicago Police

MIT Grad's Chicago Death Ruled Accidental, But What Happened Remains A Mystery

Theodore Hilk was found dead two months ago in a Chicago apartment strewn with chemicals and pharmaceuticals, causing a hazmat response downtown.

NBC Universal, Inc.

By anyone's definition, 30-year-old Theodore Hilk was brilliant, graduating with a double-major from MIT after a distinguished academic career in high school, where he made the papers with a perfect score on his ACT.

But the genius student who became a whiz-kid "high frequency trader" with a Chicago investment firm died in mystery in a chemical-strewn residence, sparking wild rumors of bombs and questions about what he had been doing in his Streeterville apartment.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office says Hilk died due to ingestion of the prescription drug Lidocaine and that his death had been ruled an accident. A spokesman for the M.E.'s office said Hilk had 96 micrograms of Lidocaine in his system, and that at 23 micrograms a person can overdose.

But police reports obtained by NBC 5 Investigates paint a picture of a trash- and clutter-strewn apartment, where neighbors reported shouting matches and loud noises at all hours of the night.

The reports reveal that officers made entry to Hilk's apartment on March 23, after his parents said they had not been able to reach him for a month, and were unable to open the apartment door with a key.

"Upon making entry into the victim's unit, they discovered several items in the apartment that were possibly part of a clandestine lab used for producing illegal narcotics," one report states. "They discovered several pressure cookers, chemicals, lab equipment, metal drums, and multiple pills and pharmaceuticals in the unit."

Hilk was found in a bedroom in an advanced state of decomposition. He was on his back with his head under a desk, and the room was cluttered with "multiple bins full of pill bottles ... and multiple pill bottles on the desk."

Investigators said they also found "multiple shelving units containing tools, more pill bottles, lab equipment and chemical bottles."

While the reports state the "CPD bomb squad removed both hazardous and potentially explosive materials from the apartment," there was no reference in the report to actual bombs, contrary to some press reports following the discovery of Hilk's body. It was reported at the time that one of the chemicals found at the scene was lead azide, a volatile chemical that can be used to make detonators and is best stored in small quantities.

One neighbor interviewed by detectives said she had made multiple complaints about noise disturbances emanating from Hilk's apartment, including loud banging in the middle of the night, and loud arguments, "seemingly between a male and female."

That neighbor worked for the same Chicago trading company where Hilk was employed and told NBC 5 Investigates he was known at the firm as being "difficult to work with."

The woman, who asked not to be identified, told NBC 5 she had reported Hilk to management at least five times. She described him as anti-social and recalled that when he would see her in the hallway with her dog, he would become "paralyzed" because he was fearful of her dog.

"He could not look you in the eye," she said. "There was a serious disconnect."

The woman recalled the loud banging noises coming from the apartment at 2 a.m. and said she had asked him personally to keep things quiet. She also noted "excessive" delivery of packages, many from China.

Another neighbor is quoted in the police reports as having seen Hilk wearing an industrial-type face mask and heavy rubber gloves. The property manager told police that last October, window washers reported seeing propane tanks in Hilk's apartment. He was asked to remove them.

Whatever the case, the reports do not suggest anything more nefarious than drug operations may have been afoot.

"This investigation is considered non-criminal, at this time," a detective wrote, "pending the results of further studies at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office."

That was March 27, and the autopsy report released Sunday shows that the M.E.'s office believed Hilk's death was an accident.

Contact Us