What happens when you fake your own death?

Sep 23, 2013

In a recent article from the New York Times, writer Mary Pilon wrote an expansive narrative about a man who faked his own death.

"Tomato Can Blues" focuses on Charlie Rowan, a relatively unknown cage fighter from Gladwin, Michigan. He was fairly active in mixed martial arts, which combined jujitsu, kickboxing, karate, and other disciplines. The fights were short, and pretty brutal. 

But here's the twist. When Rowan was really tight on money and didn't know where to go, he pretended to die. Or rather, he had his girlfriend tell everyone he died. 

The narrative can be read online, but there's also an audio version read by Bobby Cannavale, the guy from Boardwalk Empire

Here's a very dramatic (and enticing) clip from the story:

DiPonio drove for two hours from Traverse City to Gladwin for a makeshift memorial at the home of Rowan’s girlfriend. Rowan’s mother sat in the living room, quietly weeping.

DiPonio and other promoters planned a string of benefits for the Rowan family, including one called the Fight for Charlie. The fighters were enemies in the cage, but they pulled together to help one of their own. A heavyweight who had once knocked out Rowan in fewer than 90 seconds agreed to work as a judge at the largest benefit.

The Fight for Charlie took place March 9. Ring girls sold raffle tickets to a crowd of about 1,000. A young fighter declared from the cage that he was dedicating his bout to Rowan’s memory.

“Thank you for helping us raise money for Charlie Rowan’s family,” a promoter wrote on Facebook after one of the benefits. “Thank you for letting it all out in the cage for us.” He added that Rowan was “there with us in spirit and would have been very proud of all of you!”

Less than two weeks later, a Gladwin gun store was robbed.

When Scott DiPonio, the fight promoter, saw the suspect’s mug shot on the next day’s news, his stomach dropped. It was the late Charlie Rowan, back from the dead.

Read it.

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

H/T: Kyle Norris