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Billy Mays autopsy: cocaine, heart disease, or death by drug cocktail

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Billy Mays was found dead in his home on June 28, 2009, a little more than one week after the Tampa, Florida pitchman had his fiftieth birthday. After returning to Tampa on a flight the night before, Billy Mays told his wife, Deborah that he wasn’t feeling well and went to bed. She found him unresponsive the next morning. Though the sudden death of Billy Mays was shocking, no one would have imagined the autopsy controversy and details that were soon to follow.

The first autopsy was expected to be performed the following day, on June 29, 2009. Though Billy Mays had been scheduled for hip surgery the following day, many wondered if a head injury suffered from a rough landing at TIA could have resulted in his death. It wasn’t long, however, that it was announced that Billy Mays died from hypertensive heart disease. In fact, the very next day, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner went public with their findings that it wasn’t a bump on the head or head injury that caused Billy Mays’ death, but rather an undiagnosed case of hypertensive heart disease. At the time of the statement, it was announced that the final cause of death would not be made public until the full autopsy had been completed.

Dr. Vernard Adams announced the first results of hypertensive heart disease. During this conference, Dr. Adams states that Billy Mays had no history of previous drug abuse. He also mentions Billy Mays’ prescriptions for tramadol and hydrocodone, however standard toxicology testing would be performed and that the results would be returned within 8-10 weeks. It wasn’t until those toxicology reports came in that controversy ensued.

The toxicology report showed that Billy Mays had a ‘drug cocktail’ in his blood. In addition the hydrocodone and tramadol, Billy Mays also had cocaine, oxycodone, alprazolam and diazepam. It was also revealed that it was not just cocaine, but rather cocaine metabolites found in Billy Mays’ system, signifying that the cocaine had broke down in his system. Billy Mays’ wife, however, discredits the autopsy, it’s findings, or the allegations that Billy Mays’ used cocaine, as well as had a drug cocktail in his system before he died.

The autopsy showed that cause of death was heart disease and that cocaine use was a contributing factor, but now new claims from a forensic pathologist, Cyril Wecht challenges those findings. According to doctor Cyril Wecht, it was the drug cocktail that killed Billy Mays.

Dr. Cyril Wecht stated, “There are six brain-depressant drugs, including alcohol. As Jane (Jane Velez-Mitchell) has mentioned, Xanax and Valium, which are benzodiasapines (ph), anti-depressants, and then three narcotic-type drugs, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Travedal (ph). And then alcohol, which many people don't appreciate, which is also a brain depressant drug.

Cumulatively, even those each of those is at a sub-toxic, sub- lethal level, when acting in concert, act to depress the respiratory system, and then can lead to cardio-respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmia and death.

In my opinion, the release of the finding of hypertensive and arteriosclerotic-cardiovascular (ph) disease within the day or so after the autopsy was premature. You have a 50-year-old man dying suddenly. I think you should wait until the toxicology comes in.

They did not. They just released that. Subsequently, when the report came back, they seized upon cocaine, which is also present, not one of the drugs that I mentioned. Cocaine is a stimulant. I do not believe that cocaine played a role. “