Coroner’s jury also rules on several drug overdoses — (Peoria Journal Star)

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Peoria Journal Star

June 14, 2002


PEORIA – A 54-year-old Peoria man was legally drunk when he either passed out or fell asleep in a Peoria hotel room’s hot tub and drowned last month, a Peoria County coroner’s jury was told Thursday.

The jury ruled the May 5 death of James A. Rennick of 8141 N. Crab Orchard Court as accidental. His nude body was found that night in a locked guest suite of the Peoria Inn, formerly known as the Days Inn, at 2726 W. Lake Ave.

At the time of his death, Rennick had a blood-alcohol level of 0.264 percent, or more than three times the legal threshold for intoxication in Illinois of 0.08 percent, officials said.

Citing pathology reports, Chief Deputy Coroner Johnna Ingersoll told jurors the alcohol level would ”suggest (Rennick) either fell asleep or passed out while in the hot tub, slipping under the water.”

Peoria Police Det. Javier Grow said there was ”no indication there was anybody else in that room other than himself.”

Police went to the room based on the concerns of a friend who had attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with Rennick just prior to his death.

Rennick was an attorney for his family’s law firm, Rennick, Rennick & Rennick in Toulon and Bradford, and was a Stark County assistant prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s.

In other inquests Thursday, overdoses of anti-depressant medications played roles in three otherwise unrelated deaths earlier this year.

”You can overdose on any medication if you ingest enough of it, anything from aspirin to illegal narcotics to prescription drugs,” Ingersoll said.

But whether one of the overdose victims received her lethal anti-depressant dose by her own hand or from staff at the Bureau County hospital where she was being treated ”remains a question,” Ingersoll said.

Mary Ann Saepharn, 34, of 3019 Arlington Drive in DePue was a patient at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley from Feb. 25 to March 1 after being diagnosed with pneumonia and depression, among other ills, Ingersoll said.

During that time, Saepharn was treated with fluoxetine, better known by its brand name of Prozac . After her physical condition suddenly worsened, Saepharn was transferred to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where she died of pneumonia caused by a lack of oxygen to her brain that was prompted by a Prozac overdose, Ingersoll said.

The jury ruled the cause of death as unknown.

”It is unclear when Mary ingested the lethal dose . . . and how she would have gained access to (the lethal amount) and whether it was by accident or intent,” Ingersoll said.

Spring Valley police are investigating the case.

The two other deaths were each ruled as suicides. Carolyn J. Inglett, 41, of Peoria died at her 927 W. Loire Court home April 25 from an overdose of Prozac, the anti-anxiety medicine nordiazepam and the pain reliever acetaminophen, Ingersoll said.

And Charles A. ”Chuck” Morgan, 41, a Gulf War Army veteran from 4832 Lake Camelot Drive in Mapleton, died at St. Francis on April 24 from an overdose of amitriptyline, an anti-depressant, Ingersoll said.