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Overdose suspected in inmate's death

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jul 25, 2018 at 11:42 PM

Drugs are suspected as the cause of death for a Norwalk man who suffered a “medical emergency” Monday while being booked at the Huron County Jail.

Robert B. Carpenter, 35, experienced “a medical emergency” in the booking area a few hours after being brought to the jail, according to the Huron County Sheriff’s Office.

Carpenter, most recently of 520 Milan Ave., Lot 75, was attended to by medical staff at the jail and then transported to Fisher-Titus Medical Center by North Central EMS, the report said. He later died at the hospital.

Evidence found in Tuesday’s autopsy, which took place at the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, have led Huron County Coroner Jeffrey Harwood to believe drugs were involved.

“They did find some pieces of plastic in his esophagus,” Harwood said. “We’re still waiting on toxicology reports, but our suspicion is that he swallowed his contraband and it may have opened up and caused him to acutely overdose.”

Harwood said Carpenter arrived at the sheriff’s office appearing “fine,” while he waited in a holding cell “in direct view of a booking officer.” After about an hour and a half, while still in the booking area, Carpenter’s demeanor changed suddenly, the coroner said.

Harwood said this would make sense if he swallowed a balloon of drugs, which then burst inside of him.

“It would be quickly in the sense that there’s an unknown or perhaps larger than intended amount being taken,” Harwood said. “It’s not like you’re just taking a dose; you’re getting the whole thing.

“The findings have been consistent with how rapidly he changed in his condition. He was being observed for some hours and was acting normally and not under the influence of anything, then all of a sudden that changed very quickly. That would be consistent with this type of internal ingestion. ... He went from normal to being incapacitated very quickly.”

Though it’s unknown when Carpenter may have ingested the contraband, officers “said he started having some tremors and convulsions,” after which they began administering Narcan because they suspected drug use, Harwood said. Narcan is the brand name for a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.

“He got a lot of Narcan, both by the sheriff’s office and EMS, and I don’t know if he got any more once he got to the ER,” Harwood said. “But he got a lot rather quickly and repeatedly.”

Toxicology reports are expected to take two to four months to be completed. 

Earlier in the day Monday, Carpenter was arrested in Perkins Township for outstanding warrants. He was then transferred to the Norwalk Police Department and then taken to the jail. 

The warrants included charges of possession of marijuana, stemming from a March 12 incident investigated by the police department.

At the request of the sheriff’s office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation was contacted and will be completing an investigation related to Carpenter’s death.

No further details were available. Sheriff Todd Corbin and other responding sergeants could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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