Suspicion surrounds death of personal chef fished out of pond on Obama’s swanky Vineyard estate

The recovery of a Martha’s Vineyard drowning victim’s connection to former President Barack Obama caused a strikingly similar story linked to the Clinton White House to resurface.

(Video: CBS News Boston)

Monday morning, the search had resumed in Edgartown Great Pond to locate a paddleboarder who had gone under and failed to resurface Sunday night. The multi-agency effort was concluded before 10 a.m. when former White House sous chef Tafari Campbell’s body was discovered by the Massachusetts Environmental Police, press releases detailed.

Though reports had suggested the victim was 43, Campbell was confirmed to be a 45-year-old of Dumfries, Virginia who left behind a wife, Sherise, and 19-year-old twin sons, Xavier and Savin. According to the Massachusetts State Police, the onetime White House sous chef had remained in the employ of the Obamas after the end of the president’s administration, and he had been visiting Martha’s Vineyard.

As detailed by CBS News, Campbell had already been in the employ of the White House, having been hired as a chef during former President George W. Bush’s administration. He was one of a few kitchen employees who were retained during the transition.

Not long after confirmation of his identity, social media users began to draw a connection to a 2015 tragedy where 61-year-old former White House executive chef Walter Scheib had been discovered drowned after he had gone on a Yerba Canyon hike in New Mexico. USA Today had reported at the time that Scheib had stayed on for the Bush administration after working for former President Bill Clinton’s White House.

Suspicion around the Sunday night drowning only grew after the initial report detailed how an unidentified companion had reported the incident with the 911 dispatch linked to the multimillion-dollar estate owned by the Obamas.

No sooner had the victim’s identity been revealed than a 2017 photo of him in Aruba with his wife surfaced with the hashtag #stillcantswim.

However, continued scouring of his Instagram account confirmed that the chef “later became a proficient swimmer.”

In a statement provided to the media, the Obamas remembered their employee who appeared in the background of a 2015 segment on NBC’s “Today” where the president was promoting the beer brewed by Campbell using honey from then-first lady Michelle Obama’s garden.

(Video: NBC)

“Tafari was a beloved part of our family,” they wrote and said, “When we first met him, he was a talented sous chef at the White House — creative and passionate about food, and its ability to bring people together. In the years that followed, we got to know him as a warm, fun, extraordinarily kind person who made all of our lives a little brighter.”

“That’s why, when we were getting ready to leave the White House, we asked Tafari to stay with us, and he generously agreed,” the statement added. “He’s been part of our lives ever since, and our hearts are broken that he’s gone.”

The police specifically detailed that “President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident.”


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