Tampa man's death blamed on bath salts

TAMPA - There's no way to tell how much he took, but doctors say there's no question that ingesting bath salts killed Jarious McGhee. It is the first bath salts death in the Bay area.

"I found it everywhere and at high concentration, it's definitive, it's conclusive," said Toxicologist Dr. Julia Pearson.

The official cause of death is 'intoxication by methylone'. Methylone is one of four chemicals used to make the bath salts. Dr. Julia Pearson made the connection in McGhee's case after tests for more than a dozen other drugs, like cocaine, came back negative. She believes his death may be the first in the nation caused by methylone.

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"It was an identical match, this one particular bath salt," Pearson said. "I found it in all the hospital bloods, all his different tissues in the autopsy. It's definite, it's conclusive."

McGhee died in the hospital after a confrontation with Tampa Police. An officer was flagged down in April, after motorists said McGhee was beating on cars near the intersection of Kennedy Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway. In that confrontation, police say McGhee was ranting, singing and attacked their officers.

"There was urine on his pants, his lips were white in color and very dry, his eyes were wide open and very bloodshot," said Tampa Police spokesperson Laura McElroy.

That confrontation ended with McGhee being tased, stirring speculation among the 23-year-old's family that the tasing could be behind his death. The medical examiner says no taser marks were found on McGhee's body, indicating the taser prongs only made contact with his clothing. Theories that McGhee died from meningitis were also ruled out.

What doctors can't be sure of is when McGhee ingested the bath salts, though they say it was likely not long before his confrontation with police. They also can't be sure if he'd ever done it before.

"We've never had a case of being high on this particular type of drug, so it's a learning curve for us and we'll be getting up to speed on the signs if someone is under the influence of it," McElroy said.

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