Tuesday, March 18, 2003 | 9:50 a.m.
The sudden and puzzling death of 28-year-old David Peter Thomas, heir to a Las Vegas finance and development empire, could forever remain a mystery.
The Blaine County, Idaho, coroner, after an autopsy and the examination of post-mortem tests by outside medical experts, has listed the official cause of death as undetermined.
"Undetermined is a legal cause that is rarely used, but it happens sometimes when there is no other evident cause," said Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel, noting the case was closed this month.
Thomas, who was to have graduated from law school at the University of Utah this spring, died in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Jan. 2 after spending New Year's Day skiing. He had no history of heart problems, his family said.
The toxicology tests from his autopsy returned negative, ruling out anything narcotics-related, Mikel said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control said that in 2000 fewer than 20 deaths nationwide were from "undetermined overexertion," the category seemingly most applicable to Thomas.
In Clark County just 145 of the 3,034 deaths handled by the coroner's office in 2002 were deemed to be of an undetermined cause -- 0.4 percent. For 2001 just 115 of the 3,060 deaths reviewed by the Clark County coroner were listed as being of undetermined cause -- 0.37 percent.
Thomas was the grandson of E. Parry Thomas, the Las Vegas banking legend who financed many of the town's hotels for 40 years and whose generosity added 400 acres to the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center is named for Parry Thomas and late financier Jerry Mack. David Thomas was being groomed to one day take over the Thomas & Mack Co., a local commercial development firm.
Thomas, the son of Peter M. Thomas and Nancy Paxman Thomas, was a Las Vegas resident of 22 years and a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School, where he was class valedictorian.
Thomas graduated from the University of Utah in 1999 and spent his first year of law school at UNLV before transferring to Utah, where he later served as an intern for Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilkins. Last summer he served as a clerk for the Jones Vargas law firm in Las Vegas.
On the morning of Jan. 2, Thomas' wife of eight months, Natalie, awoke to find David breathing irregularly. Members of his family performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at a Utah hospital.