Ian Murdock, founder of Debian, dead at 42 under strange circumstances

Posted on 2015-12-31 13:21

While still enjoying the holiday with my family I found a recent story in various online forums strangely compelling. It concerned Ian Murdock, an icon in the open source and Linux community for his contribution of Debian (Ubuntu is one of the many Debian derivatives) in 1993 while at Purdue University. Mr. Murdock had apparently suddenly begun posting some very strange things on Twitter over the weekend suggesting that he was planning suicide but also alleging police abuse. The posts seemed uncharacteristic of him, and many folks speculated that his account had been hacked. He was discovered deceased on Monday after friends raised the alarm but there has been very little in the way of information about his death reported in the mainstream media. The fact that the San Francisco Police were somehow involved led many to wonder if there might be more to the story than drugs or a mental breakdown. I started to collect information about the case early on and this post is basically just a record of what I've found so far.

Originally I had posted the following as a comment in a Reddit thread about Ian's strange tweets, I've brought the list here to archive.

Ian-Murdock-300x169

Reference

Original Softpedia article and Follow-up

Apparently both of these domains were his:

http://ianmurdock.com/ and imurdock.com though I'm linking to domaintools screenshots since this domain is redirecting to google now

Ian Murdock on Wikipedia

His LinkedIn page

Someone claimed to have reported it to Docker (his current employer) and they allegedly replied that they were attempting to get in touch with him.

Debian announcement of his passing

Docker announcement In Memoriam

Article in the Register cites San Francisco police:

According to the San Francisco police, officers were called to Steiner and Union St in the city at 11.30pm on Saturday, December 26, following reports of a man trying to break into a home – that man was identified as Ian Murdock. He reportedly fought with the cops, and was given a ticket for two counts of assault and one for obstruction of an officer. The techie had been drinking, according to the police logs. A medic arrived to treat an abrasion to Murdock's forehead, and he was released so he could be taken to hospital. A few hours later, on Sunday, December 27 at 2.40am, police were called again to reports of Murdock banging on the door of a neighbor at the very same block. A medic arrived to treat him for any injuries at the scene. Next, the cops took Murdock to the county jail where he was held in a cell. Murdock was bailed later that day, on Sunday, after a bond, said to be $25,000, was paid. He died the next day.

Ars Technica story - Ian Murdock, father of Debian, dead at 42

ZDNet story - Debian Linux founder Ian Murdock dies at 42, cause unknown by Steven Vaughan-Nichols

Follow up July 7, 2016

A CNN article announced a summary of the autopsy report which was recently released.