James W. Hardy, one of Fort Wayne's greatest athletes, was missing for a week before his body was pulled from the Maumee River on Wednesday afternoon.
Hardy, 31, was confirmed Thursday by the Allen County coroner's office as the man whose body was found by a city worker wedged among log debris at the Hosey Dam by North Anthony Boulevard. Why and how he died – whether intentional or accidental – may not be known for awhile until all test results are back to the coroner's office.
For a long time Hardy had two sides to his life. A two-sport athlete, his death resonated on both coasts in addition to locally because of his work in Los Angeles as a model after injuries ended his NFL career with New York's Buffalo Bills, which had drafted the 6-foot-6 wide receiver in 2008. He played 16 games for Buffalo during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He also spent a limited time with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
Admiration was heaped on Hardy locally when he became the all-time city scoring leader for basketball in 2004 at Elmhurst, breaking a record held by Concordia Lutheran's Tom Baack for 40 years. The record later was broken by Deshaun Thomas of Bishop Luers.
However, after his 2004 graduation from Elmhurst and time at Indiana University, where he played football and basketball until leaving in his junior year for the NFL Draft, Hardy's life was punctured by violent episodes.
When he was 20 years old, he was charged with domestic battery and interfering in the reporting of a crime. In that May 2006 incident, he was accused of striking his girlfriend and his infant son. Those charges were dismissed in February 2007 after Hardy completed a six-month pretrial diversion program.
In 2008, police were called to a home in southeast Fort Wayne where witnesses told police that Hardy had beaten and pulled a gun on his father, James W. Hardy Jr., but his father did not choose to press charges against his son. Police said that the father told them his son was always angry at him because the elder Hardy had spent much of his son's childhood in prison.
In May 2014, Hardy was arrested and charged with felony resisting arrest after a fight with police officers in Los Angeles that left two officers with minor injuries. A judge ruled that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. TMZ later reported that Hardy had been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Hardy had been reported missing May 30 by his family to Fort Wayne Police, according to police spokesman Michael Joyner.
Hardy's accomplishments were remembered at Elmhurst in a display case that featured his jersey, trophies, basketballs and a News-Sentinel front page of his record-breaking basketball performance. But the school was closed in June 2010 and Hardy's mementos have possibly been broken up — scattered between former Elmhurst athletes and a display at Wayne High School, where Elmhurst's undergraduates were sent.
The Fort Wayne Police Department, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the coroner's office are continuing their investigation of Hardy's death.