Heroin and cocaine blamed for young man's death
A 20-year-old Fox River Grove man found dead in his home Thanksgiving Day overdosed from a lethal mix of heroin and cocaine, according to evidence presented Tuesday to a McHenry County Coroner's jury.
The death of James E. Piotter Jr. was the result primarily of the adverse effects of heroin, Deputy Coroner's Investigator Curt Bradshaw told the jury during an inquest into the death. However, Bradshaw added, a toxicology exam also determined Piotter had cocaine, marijuana and codeine in his system at the time of his death.
"Apparently he was using a speedball, a combination of drugs, to give himself a roller-coaster effect, both the highs and the lows," he said.
Besides the evidence of drug use, Bradshaw said, an autopsy revealed no injuries or other possible causes for Piotter's death. The amount of heroin found in the man's body was within the range of what is typically considered fatal, he added.
The evidence led the six-member coroner's jury to find Piotter's death an accident after about 15 minutes of deliberations.
Piotter, according to authorities, was a friend of Matthew Smyl, another 20-year-old from Cary who died last year while under the influence of heroin.
Smyl had been using heroin Jan. 15 when he stabbed his mother, Barbara Smyl, to death in the family's home, then tried to kill his father before turning the knife on himself. Although the drug was not the direct cause of his death, officials believed it contributed to the circumstances surrounding the murder of his mother and his suicide.
Piotter's mother discovered him dead Nov. 28 in a bedroom of his apartment after he failed to show up for his family's Thanksgiving dinner, Fox River Grove police Sgt. Ronald Lukasik testified Tuesday.
When police arrived to investigate, Lukasik said, they discovered a three-inch straw used for ingesting drugs near his body as well as traces of cocaine on his kitchen table. Piotter was wearing the same clothes his mother had seen him in the previous night, the officer added.
Police continue to investigate the death, Lukasik said, but have ruled out the possibility of foul play. There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry to the apartment, he testified.