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Co-owner of Tenn. restaurant found dead in cooler

Updated: June 18, 2012 5:55PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The co-owner of a restaurant in Nashville was found dead inside the business’s walk-in cooler and police say he may have accidentally locked himself inside.

The Tennessean reports that 47-year-old Jay Luther was found inside the cooler at Germantown Cafe East when an employee showed up for work Monday morning.

Police said there was a power outage Friday night, and the restaurant put dry ice inside the cooler to preserve the food. When the power was restored Sunday, police think Luther went inside to check on the food and somehow became trapped.

A button that would have opened the cooler from the inside was not working. Police said they think that Luther may have died from the carbon dioxide fumes created by the dry ice.

“There is a possibility that Mr. Luther tried to use a piece of cardboard or something to go into the latch to try to open it,” said Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron. “There is evidence inside the cooler to suggest that.”

Investigators said he had no cell phone at the time, and it was found Monday in his nearby condo.

An autopsy was planned.

According to a news release from police late Monday afternoon, the cooler had a robbery alarm that was activated Sunday night. Officers found the building dark and all doors secure, and a sign in the window that said the business was closed. The alarm was classified as false.

The restaurant will be closed until further notice. Luther and co-owner Chris Lowry operated a restaurant at the site since 2008. It was first known as Allium but was renamed Germantown Cafe East. Their original Germantown Cafe opened in 2003, named after an historic district in Nashville.

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