Saturday, May 22, 1999

Cocaine and attack led to death

Coroner: Drug added to stress

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A woman whose body was found in Crawford Woods Park last month died from an unusual cause, the county coroner said.

        Tammy Esther McClellan, 36, who was found dead April 10, died from the combined effects of cocaine use and a physical attack, Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt said Friday.

        “She suffered physical violence, which would not have been fatal if she hadn't been on cocaine,” he said.

        This type of death ruling has gained increasing understanding among death investigators, Dr. Burkhardt said.

        The cocaine and the physical attack combined in a “synergistic reaction” to intensify the body's response to both the drug and the attack, Dr. Burkhardt explained. When a person takes a drug like cocaine, then also faces a physical threat, the heart rate can accelerate to dangerous levels; such a situation also triggers changes in other important bodily functions, including brain activity.

        Ms. McClellan suffered a blow to the head and some neck injuries. Someone shoved a stick in her mouth — but that probably happened after she died, Dr. Burkhardt said.

        He said there were other strange circumstances about the condition in which her body was found, but he declined to say what they were.

        Dr. Burkhardt has ruled the death a homicide. Hamilton police on Friday had no new information to release, said Officer Dave Crawford, police spokesman.

        Ms. McClellan's family members said the mother of two had no insurance. Although they will probably be eligible for the state compensation fund for victims of crime, the family said that money couldn't be sought until the coroner ruled the death was caused by a crime.

        Relatives are still about $3,000 in debt for her funeral costs, said her brother, Jerry Simpson of Trenton. Contributions can be made at any branch of First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio in Ms. McClellan's name.


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