Illinois Police to Investigate Death of St. Louis Woman Linked to Mass Overdose

An autopsy will determine Chuny Ann Reed's cause of death

Jul 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm
click to enlarge Carolyn Reed holding an image of her daughter, Chuny Ann Reed. - THEO WELLING
Carolyn Reed holding an image of her daughter, Chuny Ann Reed.

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.

Illinois State Police’s Division of Criminal Investigation has launched an investigation into the in-custody death of Chuny Ann Reed, 47, a St. Louis woman who remains the only person charged in connection with the deadliest mass drug overdose event in St. Louis history, according to an Illinois State Police statement issued Thursday.
Reed died at a hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, on Monday morning after suffering a “medical episode” four days earlier at the Pulaski County Jail, in Ullin, Illinois, located 145 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Reed had been an inmate at the jail awaiting trial on a federal charge of distributing fentanyl and crack cocaine resulting in bodily injury at the Parkview Apartments at 4451 Forest Park Avenue. If convicted, she would have faced at least 20 years in prison.

Eleven residents of Parkview Apartments and the neighboring Park Place Apartments suffered drug overdoses in early February of this year after ingesting crack cocaine tainted with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Reed had allegedly supplied the overdose victims the drugs at her apartment on Parkview’s 14th floor. Eight of the overdose victims died — making it the second deadliest overdose event in U.S. history.

Reed had been a federal detainee at the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center, in Ullin, since her arrest in early February. She suddenly took ill last Wednesday evening — the same day the RFT published its story about her case.

The Illinois State Police began the investigation of Reed’s death at the request of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, according to the statement.

“During the morning hours of July 14, 2022, Pulaski County Correctional Officers located a 47-year-old female of St. Louis, Missouri, unresponsive in her jail cell,” according to the statement. “The female was transported by ambulance to an area hospital and later transferred to a hospital located in Mount Vernon, Illinois.”
Reed “was pronounced deceased at the hospital,” according to the statement. “An autopsy is pending and the cause of death is unknown at this time. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office is assisting in the investigation. The investigation is on-going and no additional information is being released at this time.”

Carolyn Reed, Chuny Ann Reed’s mother, declined to comment.

The mother of four children, including a 19-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, Chuny Ann Reed had a long history of drug use and interaction with the criminal justice system. Family members say she sold drugs to support her own heroin habit.

Reed was not charged with causing any of the deaths at either Parkview or Park Place.

Diane Dragan, Reed’s federal public defender, issued a statement in which she encouraged a full investigation into the cause of Reed’s death.

“When the federal government incarcerates an individual,” Dragan wrote, “they are responsible for providing them both a safe environment and appropriate health care for their medical needs.”