Homicide by Poisoning
Finnberg, Amanda MD*; Junuzovic, Mensura MD*; Dragovic, Ljubisa MD†; Ortiz-Reyes, Ruben MD†; Hamel, Marianne MD, PhD‡; Davis, Joseph MD, PhD§; Eriksson, Anders MD, PhD*
Abstract: By studying the number and method of homicidal poisoning in Miami-Dade County, Florida; New York City, NY; Oakland County, Michigan; and Sweden, we have confirmed that this is an infrequently established crime.
Several difficulties come with the detection of homicidal poisonings. Presenting symptoms and signs are often misdiagnosed as natural disease, especially if the crime is committed in a hospital environment, suggesting that an unknown number of homicides go undetected.
In the reported cases analyzed, the lethal agent of choice has changed over the years. In earlier years, traditional poisons such as arsenic, cyanide, and parathion were frequently used. Such poisonings are nowadays rare, and instead, narcotics are more commonly detected in victims of this crime.
Having researched death by poison since the death of my son, Raymond Zachry in 2007, there is a similarity in many cases where the cause of death is listed as heart attack, arrhythmia or disrrhythmia by the coroner or medical examiner. Ignoring the underlying symptoms of poisoning, unfamiliarity with symptoms that mimic heart attack has allowed many homicides to go undetected as the authors of the above data include in their paper.
During the six years since Ray Zachry’s death many other poisoning cases have surfaced and like Zachry’s it has remained secret even when families offer evidence and proof otherwise. Only when independent oversight boards review death certificates for incorrect cause of death analysis and other mistakes will the homicide by poisoning become recognized on sudden, unattended death cases.