Alcohol, drug blamed in death

Saturday, January 29th 2005, 2:46 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former University of Central Oklahoma student Angela Abbitt of Midwest City died last October from a lethal combination of alcohol and the drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate, according to a state autopsy released Friday.

Gamma-hydroxybutyrate is commonly called GHB.

``The drug is known to be used recreationally and also known to be given without consent,'' said Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state medical examiner. ``When it first came out, everybody knew it as the 'date rape drug.' Now, more and more people are using it for the feeling of intoxication.''

The autopsy revealed no signs of sexual assault.

Rowland said police investigators have been unable to determine whether Abbitt, 24, took the drug voluntarily or if it was slipped to her in a drink.

Because of the uncertainty, the autopsy lists the manner of death as ``unknown.''

Vicki Abbitt, Angela's mother, said police officers have told her they are not going to pursue the case because they can't determine if she took the drug voluntarily.

``Her father and I don't feel like she was taking it voluntarily,'' her mother said.

She said they had regular contact with their daughter and believe they knew her pretty well.

She faulted police for assuming from the start that the death was simply from alcohol poisoning without vigorously questioning witnesses before they ``had time to get their stories together.''

``I believe they missed out on an opportunity to gather evidence,'' she said.

A police incident report indicates officers separated two witnesses at the scene and questioned them independently about circumstances surrounding Angela Abbitt's death. The report showed ``no signs'' of a possible homicide.

Angela Abbitt died Oct. 21 after a night of drinking with friends at a southwest Oklahoma City club, her mother said.

Friends reported Abbitt drank three beers and a couple of Jager Bombs, a mixture of the energy drink Red Bull and the liquor Jagermeister, during two hours of drinking at the club. She then caught a ride to a friend's home and had another beer before going to sleep on a couch. She didn't wake up.

The levels of alcohol and GHB in Abbitt's bloodstream were not particularly high when viewed individually, Rowland said.

The alcohol level was .08 percent _ barely enough to be considered too impaired to drive, the autopsy revealed.

The GHB level was consistent with a recreational dosage, Rowland said.

Combined they can be deadly, Rowland said.

City police Sgt. Charles Phillips said he expects homicide detectives will review the autopsy Monday

``At this point, they've interviewed associates of hers and processed the scene,'' Phillips said. ``Other than that, they've been waiting for the results to come back. ... We don't know if it was a homicide, an overdose or an accidental death case.''

Abbitt was a part-time student at UCO during the spring of 2004 and was working toward a journalism degree. She was not enrolled when she died.