Orinda boy's death deemed "undetermined"

December 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
First, authorities suggested his death was alcohol-related, then they implied drug use, but now officials say they may never know precisely what killed a 16-year-old Orinda boy. The final report on Joseph Loudon's death is complete and it lists the cause of death as "undetermined."

The amended autopsy report doesn't give this community any sense of closure. In fact, it is becoming quite clear, that the people of this town will likely never get the answers they were looking for.

It's been nearly seven months since Miramonte student Joe Loudon died after collapsing at a teenage party in Orinda. Now, an autopsy report concludes the cause of the 16-year-old's death to be undetermined, that there is no medical evidence to support any theory.

In his report, the coroner said, "The most likely mechanism of death is asphyxia due to aspiration of gastric contents. The possible causes of this aspiration are ingestion of alcohol, and possibly another substance, or a lethal cardiac arrhythmia due to a cardiac condition."

ABC7's legal analyst Dean Johnson said "Either one, Joseph's death was one of the greatest medical mysteries of all time. Two, the evidence has simply evaporated between the bungled first test and the new set of tests or three, this coroner is simply not competent to figure out the cause of death."

The original autopsy found Loudon's blood alcohol content to be .03. It also concluded his death was the result of a combination of alcohol and the drug papaverine which caused him to vomit and choke. However, it was later revealed that papaverine had been injected after Loudon died as part of the tissue retrieval process.

All of this has been a nightmare for his family, who will now never really know why their son died and his mother, who was demanding an aggressive investigation into those at the party, likely will never see other charges brought.

"We may very well see charges of administering alcohol to a minor, even those I think those are very difficult cases, but those are only misdemeanors," said Johnson.

Last ABC7 heard, three people possibly face charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor. Prosecutors have a year to bring charges.


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