Cause of Death Released for St. Louis Woman Linked to Deadly Mass Overdose

Chuny Ann Reed was awaiting trial when she died suddenly this summer

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Chuny Ann Reed's mother, Carolyn Reed, shows a photo of her daughter. The late Chuny Ann Reed was herself the mother of four, one of whom was severely disabled.
THEO WELLING
Chuny Ann Reed's mother, Carolyn Reed, shows a photo of her daughter. The late Chuny Ann Reed was herself the mother of four, and one of her children was severely disabled.

Chuny Ann Reed, 47, the sole person ever charged in connection with the  deadliest mass overdose event in St. Louis history, died from a tumor obstructing the flow of blood through her right carotid artery, according to Roger Hayse, the coroner for Jefferson County, Illinois.

Reed was being held in the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois, when she suddenly took ill and was pronounced dead several days later at Mt. Vernon Hospital on July 18.

Reed was being held at the center after her arrest in early February in connection with a mass overdose event at Parkview and Park Place apartments in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.

Eleven people overdosed — eight fatally — after ingesting crack cocaine that Reed allegedly had sold them. The cocaine was tainted with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine. The mass overdose event was the subject of a Riverfront Times cover story.
“She had a lack of oxygen to the brain due to the obstruction in the carotid artery,” Hayse said Monday morning, citing the autopsy report he submitted to the Illinois State Police, which is conducting a probe to determine criminal wrongdoing.

At the time of her death, Reed was awaiting trial in St. Louis on a federal charge of distributing fentanyl and crack cocaine resulting in bodily injury at the Parkview Apartments, 4451 Forest Park Avenue. If convicted, she would have faced at least 20 years in prison.

The Illinois State Police criminal investigation unit began looking into Reed’s death a few days after she died. An ISP spokesperson did not return phone calls or an email requesting comment on the autopsy results and whether they will affect the investigation.
Carolyn Reed, Chuny Ann’s mother, told an RFT reporter that she still plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service on the grounds that her daughter was under marshals service supervision and was denied timely medical care.

“My concern is you violated my daughter’s right to see a doctor,” the elder Reed said. “That’s my concern. You violated her civil rights.”

Carolyn also faulted the detention center staff, which prevented her daughter from going to the hospital for nearly 24 hours after she had taken ill in the jail.

“She had a medical problem; she was ignored on the day of her death,” she said.

Chuny Ann showed no symptoms of any illness in the months before her death, and news about the tumor blocking the carotid artery came as a surprise, Carolyn said.

Carolyn said she believes more questions need to be answered about the circumstances of her daughter’s death — and that a lawyer will help her find them.

“Now it’s time for me to put my shoes on and do some leg work,” she said.

This project was completed with the support of a grant from Columbia University's Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights in conjunction with Arnold Ventures.

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