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Anheuser-Busch heir sued over girlfriend's death

Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 5:24 p.m. CDT; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ST. LOUIS — The family of a 27-year-old model who died last year of what authorities say was a drug overdose at the mansion of August Busch IV is suing the Anheuser-Busch heir, accusing her former boyfriend of carelessness and negligence in the death that produced no criminal charges.

The wrongful-death lawsuit filed Thursday in St. Louis County on behalf of Adrienne Martin's 8-year-old son, Blake Alexander Martin, seeks unspecified damages. The lead plaintiff, Kevin Martin, is the boy's father and Adrienne Martin's ex-husband, who has been caring for their child since Adrienne Martin's death.

The St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, announced in February that an investigation of Martin's death showed she had cocaine and the prescription painkiller oxycodone in her system when she was found unresponsive in Busch's home last December. McCulloch said then that no charges would be filed against Busch.

An autopsy identified an oxycodone overdose as Martin's cause of death, though McCulloch said she had taken lethal levels of both drugs. Neither Martin nor Busch had a prescription for oxycodone, and investigators found it impossible to pinpoint how she got the drugs, McCulloch said.

"It was clearly an accidental overdose," McCullock said at the time. "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."

Busch, in a response to the lawsuit that also was filed Thursday, denied that anyone has a legal or factual basis for seeking damages from him, and said he was not liable for his girlfriend's death. His attorney, Art Margulis, told The Associated Press by telephone that an out-of-court settlement of the lawsuit was a probability.

"We're confident we're going to able to work it out," Margulis said, declining to comment further.

A judge, by agreement of both sides, has ordered the case transferred to southeast Missouri's Cape Girardeau County, where Kevin Martin is a doctor and serving as the boy's legal guardian and conservator.

Attorneys representing Kevin Martin in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to messages left Thursday.

McCulloch, in his February announcement that the investigation was closed, said Busch woke up at 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 19 and tried to wake Martin about 15 minutes later. An aide in his home also tried to roust Martin before the two men called police, who arrived at 1:12 p.m. Paramedics arrived soon after, and Martin was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m.

Martin took the oxycodone five or six hours before she died and cocaine about an hour before, McCulloch said.

Oxycodone, commonly known by its brand name, OxyContin, is used to relieve moderate to severe pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. The Drug Enforcement Administration says abuse of the drug has increased markedly in recent years.

McCulloch said the autopsy showed no evidence of a rare heart condition Kevin Martin had said he diagnosed in his ex-wife, though more tests would be needed to confirm that. The tests weren't done because it was clear oxycodone was the cause of death, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said Busch was largely uncooperative in the investigation, talking to police only on the day that Martin died. Margulis said Busch was singled out because he is well-known and followed his own advice not to speak to prosecutors.

Busch, 46, was the last chief executive of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. before the company was sold to Belgian brewer InBev in 2008 — two years after he was named CEO. Busch has served on InBev's board of directors but otherwise had disappeared from public view since the merger.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Martin's death, Busch said he spiraled into depression after the brewery's sale — a transaction he opposed. He called Martin's death the saddest time of his life.

Busch has had other troubles. 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, who was found hours later at his home, 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 St. Louis jury of assault charges resulting from a police chase that ended with an officer shooting out a tire on his Mercedes-Benz.


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