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Monteith died from heroin-booze combo

B.C. coroner releases autopsy, toxicology tests

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VANCOUVER -- Cory Monteith, star of Glee, spent his last evening out on the town with three friends before returning to his luxury hotel room alone where he took heroin and died early Saturday morning from the effects of the drug combined with alcohol.

When police arrived hours later, there were no signs of a struggle and no evidence of foul play. Police were sure they knew what had happened.

"There was evidence in the room that was consistent with drug use," Const. Brian Montague, of Vancouver police, said at a news conference Tuesday after the B.C. Coroners Service announced the results of an autopsy and toxicology tests.

"It was the opinion and belief of our investigators at that time that this was going to be a drug overdose."

The service's Barb McLintock said the coroners' investigation will continue. Police say the unanswered questions McLintock's office will investigate include the levels of alcohol and heroin in Monteith's system and whether the 31-year-old was the victim of a bad batch of heroin, something that turns up from time to time in Vancouver.

"There's absolutely nothing, no evidence to suggest this is anything other than the most sad and tragic accident," McLintock said in a news release, noting the coroners' service will not comment further until its final report.

Montague said the police investigation is finished. He said the two women and another man Monteith was with last Friday night co-operated fully with police and investigators believe they know exactly what the group was doing and where they were. He wouldn't elaborate and said officers won't pursue where Monteith might have gotten the heroin.

Monteith played the role of football player and singer Finn Hudson on the popular television series Glee. Before becoming an actor, he worked as a Walmart greeter in Nanaimo, B.C., as well as a taxicab driver, school bus driver and roofer.

He also played drums for the California band Bonnie Dune and was an avid supporter of the Project Limelight Society, a Vancouver charity that offers a theatre program to at-risk youth. His family has requested donations in his name be made to Project Limelight and two other charities.

On his Twitter feed, Monteith describes himself as a "tall, awkward, Canadian, actor, drummer, person."

For days, a memorial of cards and flowers has been visited by fans, friends and at least one relative outside the hotel where he died.

Monteith had spoken publicly in the past about his struggle with drug addiction and had reportedly entered rehab earlier this year, but the role of drugs in his death still came as a shock to his fans.

"Just hearing about it, I was shocked," Tyler Gibbs, 21, said from the sidewalk shrine. "It wasn't something I expected. I hear he just completed rehab... and all of a sudden this happens. I can't even come up with words to describe it.

"I didn't expect to hear about the heroin at all. That blows my mind."

Marcela Zuniga, 17, said she couldn't believe the news at first, but was left deeply saddened by the cause of Monteith's death.

"I've known many people who have fallen to addiction, and I just stand by my views that I think when you do drugs, you're sort of being controlled by demons, so he just fell to that."

Added Shirley Sadler, who broke into tears: "It's just something he got into. It's hard to get out."

Industry Minister James Moore, who represents B.C. in cabinet, tweeted Tuesday he hopes the death prompts "a discussion of the complex health issues of addiction and recovery."

Dr. Evan Wood, who works in addiction treatment at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, said a study by the Centre for Urban Epidemiological Studies suggested accidental overdose deaths rise substantially when opiates and alcohol are combined.

The study focused on deaths in New York between 1990 and 1998.

"It's essentially the toxic effect of two depressant substances in combination being really hazardous," said Wood, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, where he holds the Canada research chair in inner-city medicine

A candlelight vigil for Monteith is planned for Friday outside the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Before the coroners' announcement, invitations to the evening were spreading on websites and blogs across the Internet.

A separate vigil is also being planned for friends and fans of the actor on Friday at Maple Leaf Square in Toronto.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2013 C11

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