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UPDATE: Anheuser-Busch heir won't face criminal charges in girlfriend's death

Thursday, February 10, 2011 | 5:36 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — Anheuser-Busch heir August Busch IV will not face criminal charges in the overdose death of his girlfriend, a Missouri prosecutor said Thursday.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch made his announcement a day after the county's medical examiner said an autopsy showed Adrienne Martin, 27, died of an accidental overdose of the prescription painkiller oxycodone. McCulloch left open the possibility of reopening the case if more information became available.

Martin died Dec. 19 after spending the night at Busch's estate.

McCulloch said Thursday that Martin's system contained cocaine as well as oxycodone.

"It was clearly an accidental overdose," McCulloch said. "There's no evidence to support any kind of finding that she may have been forced to do anything other than taking the drugs voluntarily."

McCulloch said Busch was largely uncooperative in the investigation, talking to police only the day Martin died.

"The investigation as to where the drugs came from is a dead end," he said.

But Busch's attorney, Art Margulis, said he told the brewery heir not to speak to prosecutors.

"In a large sense, he (Busch) was singled out because he was high-profile," Margulis said.

Busch woke up at 12:45 p.m. Dec. 19 and tried to wake Martin 15 minutes later, the prosecutor said. She didn't respond. An aide in Busch's home also tried to wake her, and then the two called police, who arrived at 1:12 p.m. Paramedics got there soon after. Martin was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m.

McCulloch said that despite previous reports that Busch was slow to call for help, "there is no time gap."

Neither Martin nor Busch had a prescription for oxycodone, and there was no evidence of how she got the oxycodone or the cocaine, McCulloch said.

What was clear was that Martin had taken a lot of both, he said, adding that the report indicated she had ingested cocaine an hour or so before her death and oxycodone five to six hours before her death.

"The levels on each were significant enough that either one could have caused her death alone," McCulloch said.

Martin's ex-husband, Kevin Martin, had said she suffered from a rare heart condition known as Long QT syndrome. McCulloch said the autopsy did not show evidence of a heart condition, though further testing would be needed to confirm that. But he said more tests weren't done because it was clear the oxycodone caused her death.

Friends had said Martin was strongly opposed to illegal drugs, but Busch had speculated medication Martin was taking could have caused her death. He said she was taking Trazodone, a prescription medication to treat depression but also sometimes used to treat insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

McCulloch said there were no traces of Trazodone in her system.

Oxycodone is used to relieve moderate to severe pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics and works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It is commonly known by its brand name, OxyContin.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said abuse of oxycodone has increased markedly in recent years.

Busch, 46, was the last in a long line of family members to head the iconic brewery, which makes Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Busch and other beers. Despite Busch's efforts to ward off a takeover, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. was sold to Belgian brewer InBev in 2008, two years after Busch was named chief executive officer upon his father's retirement.

Busch is no longer involved in day-to-day operations at Anheuser-Busch but does sit on the InBev board of directors. He had largely disappeared from the public spotlight since the merger.

Martin's is the second high-profile death that has prompted scrutiny of Busch. When he was attending the University of Arizona in 1983, he left a bar near Tucson, Ariz., with a 22-year-old woman. His black Corvette crashed, and the woman died. Busch was found hours later at his home. He had suffered a fractured skull and claimed he had amnesia. After a seven-month investigation, authorities declined to press charges, citing a lack of evidence.

Two years later, Busch was acquitted by a jury in St. Louis on assault charges resulting from a police chase that ended with an officer shooting out a tire on his Mercedes-Benz.

Martin had one child with her ex-husband. The boy, 8, is now living with his father in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Busch's 2006 marriage to Kathryn Thatcher lasted less than three years. They had no children.

 


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