Another Ameican, a 55-year-old Black man from Avenel, New Jersey, has died while vacationing at the Terra Linda Resort in the Dominican Republic.
Joseph E. Allen III, known as Joe by family, was visiting the island nation to celebrate a friend’s birthday in Sosúa when he suddenly died last Thursday, Allen’s brother, Jason, explained to ESSENCE in an e-mail.
Jason Allen has been trying to bring attention to his brother’s case in order to get the support needed to figure out exactly what happened to the healthy 55-year-old, who had no known medical issues. In fact, Jason Allen wrote in a letter that he sent on June 15 to New Jersey senator Bob Menendez (which he shared with ESSENCE), Joe “had just had a physical before his trip that showed him to be in very good shape with no issues.”
Jason Allen, and his sister, Jaimie Reed, both described the shock they felt when they found out about their brother’s death.
“I told my brother Jim to stop playing. He called and said, ‘They found Joe.’ I said, ‘Found him where?’ He said ‘They found him dead in his hotel room,'” Jason Allen recalled.
Jason Allen said he started yelling and cursing.
According to Jason Allen, Joe arrived in the DR on June 9. By June 13, the family got the fateful call from one of his friends that Joe had been found dead in his hotel room earlier that morning.
The family was told that on Wednesday night, Joe began feeling sick with what felt like a fever and decided to take a cold shower to cool down. He then made the decision to rest in his hotel room for the remainder of the evening, rather than go out with his friends.
Thursday morning, his friends became concerned when he did not answer his phone and asked the front desk to let them into his room.
“To make matters worse, only a few hours after finding my brother Joe, my nephew Amir, Joe’s only son, arrived in the Dominican Republic to celebrate Father’s Day with his dad, only to learn that his father had passed away,” Jason Allen wrote in the letter to the senator, in which he petitioned for help.
“My family and I are afraid that my brother was a victim of a wrongful death,” Allen continued in his letter. “Being aware of the recent number of mysterious deaths occurring in the Dominican Republic, we immediately attempted to contact the U.S. Embassy…for answers and seeking any help they could offer in getting an investigation started with an autopsy done back in the United States.”
According to Allen’s letter—which he further explained to ESSENCE— this would be the second autopsy. According to Allen, he was told that DR law obligates all citizens from another country who die on their soil to be autopsied immediately. Allen also said that his nephew was also pressured to sign a document allowing his father’s body to be embalmed in the island nation, otherwise, his father’s body would not be allowed to travel back to the States.
Both Allen and Reed told ESSENCE that they did not think that the authorities in the DR have been forthcoming when it comes to the investigation.
“My nephew who flew out there…when he had to take a three-hour ride with my brother’s friends…to see the body and they told him when he got there that they were performing an autopsy on my brother without any consent and [my nephew] was told that it was the law of the land,” Allen explained.
“And they have to be embalmed prior to them shipping the body,” Reed added.
Allen added that a friend’s mother—who owns a funeral home—told them that technically the nation would not have had to embalm Joe’s body for transportation if they had put him on dry ice.
“I feel like this is a cover-up and I feel like the less clues you have, the better for them,” Jason Allen said. “I don’t know if you’d be able to get any kind of toxicity or any kind of information regarding exactly what happened once the body has been embalmed. At the very least I feel like it makes it more difficult for the body to tell the story of why my brother died or how my brother died.”
The siblings are also upset because they do not think that their brother’s death is not getting the attention that they think it deserves.
Reed told ESSENCE that she had scheduled interviews with a major news network, only to get brushed aside.
“I’ve emailed with [the news network]…they continuously have been rescheduling. I left work early, we were all supposed to meet and possibly Skype or FaceTime with them and then I got a call stating ‘We’ll have to reschedule it, I don’t know for when, but something else came across my desk that takes precedence,'” Reed explained. “I’ve been speaking with them for the last three days, and every time we set up a date to possibly sit down with them…it’s rescheduled.”
“I think it’s minimizing his death,” Reed added. “I don’t think that with everyone else’s story that’s been on the news, I don’t think that he’s getting the media that he deserves.”
“I feel like this is a smack in the face to me, a smack in the face to my family, a smack in the face to my brother and the way that he lived his life,” Jason added. “Money means more to people than human beings do. That’s the way I feel.”
“This is how they make their money with tourism. It’s not just the Dominican Republic, but it’s the travel, the airlines and all of that stuff, everybody’s making a bunch of money and it makes more sense for them moneywise to sweep this under the rug,” Jason continued.
Joe’s body is “supposedly” supposed to be returned to the United States today, Jason said, but he is not sure if he has any faith.
“I don’t know with certainty because we haven’t spoken to the place where [his body] is,” Jason explained. “I can’t tell you with certainty exactly where my brother’s body is, and exactly when my brother’s body is going to return to the United States.”
“Especially when they’ve been very resistant,” Reed said, adding on to her brother’s comments. “They told us that it can take up to two weeks if not more.”
But the family is determined nonetheless to take any step necessary to figure out what happened to Joe. Not only for their own sense closure, but to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“In addition to the closure, I want people to not have to feel what we’re feeling,” Jason said. “I care about getting to the bottom of what’s happening with these deaths [in the DR] including my brother’s.”
“If this can be nipped in the bud, if it’s bootleg alcohol or I read people talking about pesticides being used where they shouldn’t be, I don’t know what the hell it is, but I don’t want people to feel like what we’re feeling,” Jason added, pointing out some of the allegations that have been swirling around about the other sudden deaths.
“We don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Reed added.