SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The brother-in-law of NFL quarterback Jay Cutler was paranoid about being followed by gang members when he crashed his car in a remote part of Utah and wandered off to his death in frigid temperatures, according to police reports obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Michael Cavallari — the brother of reality TV personality Kristin Cavallari — was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was a heavy online gambler who struggled with alcohol abuse, investigative reports say.
Cavallari had recently been arrested on weapons charges in California and was being evicted from his apartment in the days before he left his home and embarked on a cross-country road trip over the Thanksgiving weekend.
His death was ruled accidental by a Utah state medical examiner who said an autopsy found he died from hypothermia, authorities revealed Tuesday.
Cavallari's body was found at the bottom of a steep hillside filled with boulders on Dec. 10, about two weeks after his abandoned car was found an estimated 200 miles south of Salt Lake City. Investigators found the 2014 Honda Civic with the engine running, radio blaring, air bag deployed, clothes filling the back seat and $18,000 in cash inside a golf bag in the trunk, the documents show.
Family members told Grand County Sheriff's investigators that Michael Cavallari had recently inherited $24,000 from his grandmother's estate. He earned $8,000 a month working for his father's company in a division of management and leasing of apartment complexes.
His mother told investigators that her son had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had become paranoid.
Michael Cavallari had told family that gang members in Los Angeles were after him because of the girl he was dating. His father said his son might have fled California because of the perceived threat.
It's not known if he had any drugs or alcohol in his system the night he drove his car off the dirt road. Grand County Sheriff Steven White said Wednesday they are waiting on toxicology reports from the medical examiner's office.
Michael Cavallari had been arrested in California four days earlier on allegations that he acted threateningly toward a woman and had a gun. He bailed out of jail on Nov. 25.
Michael Cavallari was supposed to spend Thanksgiving with his father in the San Clemente area of California, but his dad said his son was instead in Durango, Colorado, that day. Witnesses in nearby Grand Junction, Colorado, told investigators that Cavallari stopped at a park there and asked for directions.
Cavallari was last seen on security-camera footage at a convenience store in Monticello, Utah, on Nov. 27 — hours before a rancher found his abandoned car near a dirt road.
Early in the investigation, his father asked authorities to avoid telling the media about his son being missing because of the celebrity status of some family members. The Grand County Sheriff eventually issued a news release on Dec. 4 in an effort to attract more information and leads.
Deputies spent several days searching the remote and rocky area for Cavallari — sending teams on foot, ATV and in helicopter to comb the region. Deputies were also sent to Cavallari's home in California to talk with neighbors, police and family.
Kristin Cavallari rose to fame in the mid-2000s when she appeared in the MTV reality series "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." She is married to Cutler, who starred at Vanderbilt University and now plays for the Chicago Bears. She denied comment through a publicist.
Investigators reached the conclusion that Cavallari may have left the warmth and safety of his car that cold night because of his "paranoid state" and belief that "he was being followed by unknown persons with harmful intent."