Bath salts victim may have had earlier heart attack

MUNNSVILLE — The 35-year-old woman who died after taking the drug bath salts and being Tasered by law enforcers Tuesday night is believed to have suffered a heart attack two or three days beforehand. It is not yet known if she was hospitalized for the heart attack.

Pamela McCarthy also underwent a medical operation on her heart within a week of her death, state police said.

The investigation is continuing into what exactly caused McCarthy’s death Tuesday after she again suffered cardiac arrest, authorities said, and whether or not the bath salts and the Taser were a factor. An autopsy Wednesday was inconclusive, and investigators will have to wait several weeks or months for all toxicology tests to be completed.

The trooper who Tased McCarthy — 4-year veteran Christopher Budlong — remains on duty without suspension, officials said. The case will be presented to a Madison County grand jury to see if anything improper took place during McCarthy’s arrest.

"His status has not changed with us. There is no indication at this point that he violated any procedures or policies," said State Police Major Rodney Campbell.

"I have no indication that there was some sort of physical damage caused to her because of the Taser."

State police believe McCarthy ingested the illegal drug bath salts sometime prior to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at her apartment on North Main Street. McCarthy had a history of using bath salts, and was arrested and hospitalized in two separate incidents in March for using the drug. Bath salts contain chemicals that cause extreme paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, aggressive and violent behavior and more.

Authorities said McCarthy came out of her apartment at about 7:45 p.m. with her 3-year-old son in her arms. She then fell down a flight of stairs to the ground, and started choking and punching the child in the head. Several neighbors called 9-1-1.

Troopers said McCarthy chased two teen-agers into a nearby residence and tried to fight with them, leaving her son on the stoop. McCarthy, who was 5-feet-tall and weighed roughly 200 pounds, then came back out of the residence and stripped naked, troopers said.

"She really was not coherent as to what was going on around her," Campbell described. Witnesses said McCarthy was running around naked and "she was growling at people, is the way it was described."

At one point, the child’s father grabbed him and took him across the street into a nearby store for safety. Troopers said McCarthy tried to chase him into the store.

After that, McCarthy briefly returned to her residence and then came back outside carrying a pit bull dog in her arms. Troopers said she started to choke the pit bull and then once again fell down the same flight of stairs.

Trooper Budlong arrived on the scene and tried to stop McCarthy. "She attempted to bite him," Campbell said.

Budlong blasted a dose of pepper spray in McCarthy’s face, but Campbell said it had no effect. So Budlong warned McCarthy that he was going to shoot her with his Taser. But when he fired, only one of the two prongs actually hit McCarthy, making the Taser ineffective. So Budlong had to step up close to her and press the actual barrel of the Taser against her, giving McCarthy a shock that way.

Troopers said the shock was able to incapacitate McCarthy enough so that Budlong could start taking her into custody. With the help of a volunteer firefighter on the scene, troopers said Budlong managed to get McCarthy into hand-cuffs.

About five to seven minutes later, troopers said McCarthy started heaving due to the sudden onset of cardiac arrest. She was rushed to the Oneida Health Care Center, where she later died. An autopsy was conducted on Wednesday, but the results were inconclusive.

Troopers said their investigation has learned that McCarthy had some kind of medical procedure on her heart within the past week, and the autopsy showed that she had suffered a heart attack two or three days before she died. Campbell said he did not know if McCarthy was aware of the heart attack or if she sought treatment. That is still being investigated.