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Snapshots: The faces of bath salts deaths in Florida

Published Oct. 14, 2012

More than 20 people have died after using bath salts in Florida. Here are snapshots of six.

Jairious McGhee, 23

Date and place of death: April 3, 2011, in Tampa

Cause: Intoxication by methylone (bath salts)

About 5:30 p.m. on April 2, 2011, McGhee drew the attention of motorists near the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway as he ran through the intersection, yelling, singing and beating on car windows, according to Tampa police. McGhee tried to fight an officer, so the officer deployed his Taser, which did not affect McGhee. The officer eventually detained McGhee and with the help of several others, got him to Tampa General Hospital, where McGhee died the next day.

For a couple of days, authorities thought McGhee had died of meningitis. The drug had made him act so uncharacteristically that his mother did not believe anything the police told her. "I know my son's personality," Melody Thompson said at the time.

Nelson Martinez, 23

Date and place of death: Dec. 17, 2011, in Tampa

Cause: Intoxication by methylone (bath salts)

In the early hours of Dec. 17, 2011, Martinez hung out at an East Tampa club called Rat Soap, where witnesses say Martinez took a drug he said was ecstasy. Later, club-goers noticed he was "freaking out," and, according to a court document, a couple of people at the club wrapped him in plastic wrap to keep him from hurting himself, put a Valium in his mouth and loaded him in a van in the parking lot.

When his friends got a call and picked him up a couple of hours later, he appeared to be having a seizure. Paramedics got him to the hospital and he died a short while later. The Medical Examiner's Office later determined Martinez had methylone in his blood, not ecstasy. Tampa police say they are still investigating the circumstances surrounding Martinez's death.

Kristofer Herrera, 21

Date and place of death: July 24, 2011, in Orlando

Cause: Intoxication by methylone (bath salts) and oxymorphone

Herrera was found unresponsive in his apartment on July 24, 2011, after a party the previous night. Witnesses said he had been drinking alcohol and taking "unknown pills."

Frank S. Vierra, 49

Date and place of death: March 14, 2011, in Volusia County

Cause: Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head

Other factor: MDPV (bath salts)

On March 14, 2011, Vierra did not show up to work, so his employer called the DeBary trailer park where Vierra lived. The park manager and a maintenance worker went into Vierra's trailer and found Vierra dead in one of his closets, shot once in the head. Deputies arrived and soon declared it a suicide. Nearby, investigators found several opened packets of "bath salts," powder residue and a cut drinking straw — typically used to snort a drug. Investigators also found sales receipts for bath salts from Internet retailers.

Monique Howlett, 43

Date and place of death: Sept. 20, 2011, in Orlando

Cause: Intoxication by mephedrone (bath salts)

On Sept. 20, 2011, Howlett was found dead on her kitchen floor. Above her, investigators found a small vial containing a white substance, later confirmed to be mephedrone. Authorities ruled her death an accident.

Ryan M. Robinson, 21

Date and place of death: Jan. 16, 2011, in Orlando

Cause: Intoxication by methadone and MDMA (ecstasy)

Contributing cause: methylone (bath salts) and two other drugs in his system

Robinson was at a music festival on Jan. 15, 2011, and used ecstasy, methadone, mushrooms, LSD and alcohol, authorities say. A witness noticed Robinson was snoring while sleeping at 11 a.m. the next day, but a half hour later he was unresponsive.

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