Claiming Nontoxic LSD Killed a Woman, Prosecutor Charges Her Husband With Murder

Foundation for a Drug-Free World pamphletFoundation for a Drug-Free World pamphletPolice in Charleston, West Virginia, have charged Todd Anthony Honaker with first-degree murder, punishable by a mandatory life sentence, because his wife died after dropping acid with him. The charge is outrageous for several reasons: Honaker did not force his wife to consume LSD, he did not intend to kill her, toxicological tests have not been completed yet, and, perhaps most important, LSD is nontoxic. The Charleston Gazette-Mail says Renee Honaker's death, if ultimately attributed to LSD, would be "the first reported acid-related fatality in the state and one of the few documented globally." Even that overstates the frequency of fatal reactions to LSD. In his 2001 book Illegal Drugs: A Compete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse, addiction specialist Paul M. Gahlinger flatly states that "LSD is not toxic in the biological sense." According to a 2008 review of the scientific literature in the journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, "There have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose." Not a few; none.

So what happened to Renee Honaker? According to the Gazette-Mail, the 30-year-old woman "fell to the floor, began convulsing and died" after taking two hits. How long after is not clear. If her death had anything to do with LSD itself (as opposed to other chemicals that might be present in black-market acid), to call it a highly idiosyncratic reaction would be a huge understatement. By no stretch of the imagination was it a foreseeable result of consuming LSD, which is the very least you would have to show before accusing her husband of negligence, let alone first-degree murder. Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Downey "said his initial research into LSD-related fatalities hasn't returned very many reported cases," the Gazette Mail reports, adding that "there are few documented around the world, and those rarely have resulted in criminal prosecution." Again, unless the paper somehow located documented cases that the authors of that 2008 review overlooked, "few" is an exaggeration; "zero" is more like it. Yet Downey, even without the benefit of an autopsy, insists the murder charge is appropriate:

Downey said although he hasn't seen the lab results, he believes there's enough probable cause to show that Renee died after ingesting the drug.

"If the stuff comes back differently we have to analyze the case," he said. "But based on what Todd Honaker told us, it was the acid."

What kind of warped mentality does it take to compound a widower's trauma by recklessly accusing him of homicide? The same kind that brought us the war on drugs.

Addendum: While West Virginia classifies delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death as first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison, many other states treat it as a less serious offense, such as second-degree murder (Virginia, five to 40 years), third-degree murder (Pennsylvania, at least five years), or criminally negligent homicide (New York, up to four years).

[Thanks to Chip Smith for the tip.]

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  • John||

    Downey said although he hasn't seen the lab results, he believes there's enough probable cause to show that Renee died after ingesting the drug.

    IN other news Downey also said there is enough probable cause to show that wet sidewalks cause rain.

  • John||

    Ladies and Gentleman, we have a Pope.

  • NoVAHockey||

    5th ballot

  • ||

    I wonder if the cardinals sing a special song when they pick a pope, like when they pick a Miss America. Come to think of it, they should just sing the Miss America song.

  • ||

    Why are you wondering? You didn't win????

  • ||

    I may have lost this battle, but I have already won the war.

  • John||

    They send him off to a room off of the Sistine chapel and start giving him his pope garb while he cries and sobs at having been stuck with the job. Being a cardinal is a great job. You get all the benies of being a pope but really don't have much responsibility. Being the pope in contrast sucks.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I have an aunt who used to work at a church. she mentioned once that, unlike nuns, priests do not take vows of poverty. Apparently, quite a few of them have nice portfolios. PATRIARCHY!

  • Enough About Palin||

    We have a family friend who's a priest and he co-owns a house in the Bay Area with something like 7 bedrooms, 5 baths and 4 or four fireplaces. He's a great guy though. He was involved in prosecuting pedophile priests.

  • R C Dean||

    4 or four fireplaces.

    I'm sure its hard to keep count in a place that size.

  • ||

    But monks do take a wow of poverty; and they're the equivalent of nuns. Priests aren't monks.

  • ||

    Some do but they aren't required to. They can be a priest and a member of an order that has a vow of poverty.

  • ||

    Cardinal O'Malley is a Capuchin for example.

  • Agammamon||

    He's a *monky*?

  • Mensan||

    Really, a Capuchin?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, I should have said "aren't required to..." instead of "don't".

  • sarcasmic||

    I knew a guy who worked at the St. Anthony's Monastery in Kennebunkport Maine and he said they send millions and millions and millions of dollars overseas. Fantastically wealthy.

  • Agammamon||

    keep in mind that priests are not a nun's counterpart - *monks* are.

  • ||

    If the new pope isn't European I'll be stunned. That would be the first time in...forever, right?

  • John||

    Since the African popes during Roman times. But being born in Roman Africa is pretty much like being European.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Paddy Power had Peter Turkson from Ghana at 7/1 and Odilo Scherer from Brazil at 8/1, but yeah, the odds on favorite was Angelo Scola.

  • John||

    I would not be surprised if it is the Brazilian.

  • ||

    How stunned are you?

  • John||

    Actually I was wrong. There is a song. They do it in Latin. It goes like this.

    Ibi est, papa catholicus
    Ibi est, vestri idealis
    De somnio million Sacerdotes, qui sunt plus quam pius potest venire verus
    in Civitate Vaticana
    Rex enim poterit evadere Catholocism

    Ibi est, papa catholicus
    Ibi est, vestri idealis
    Cardinalium tot oppidum expugnatum
    Cum suis totus-catholica vultus formaeque

    Et ibi est
    Ambulantem super aer, est
    Pulchrum pulcherrimus ipse
    Ibi est - Pope Catholic

  • ||

    They need to modernize it. Like with the "Vatican Rag".

  • Skyhawk||

    They do. They sing the Barney theme song.

  • NeonCat||

    Al Gore is already demanding a recount.

  • ||

    I see ASSAULT RIFLEZ!!

  • ||

    How much more bad marching band music will we be subjected to before we know who this guy is?

  • NeonCat||

    Obviously Justin Bieber is the new Pope.

  • NeonCat||

    I really want Kanye West to bust in and declare JP II the greatest Pope of all time.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

  • Dweebston||

    If the drug war saves even one life needlessly ruins even one already traumatized life, it's been worth it.

  • Doctor Whom||

    This is your brain on the war on drugs. Any questions?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Catchy. Thanks.

  • ||

    The sadistic sociopathic behavior of prosecutors tells you all you need to know about who gravitates to that position. Dude takes acid with his wife, SHE DIES, so charge a grieving widower with murder. I think sociopath might be too mild a word.

  • Dweebston||

    The state needs to bear some cost for frivolous criminal suits. Full stop.

  • Zeb||

    And a grieving widower who just watched his wife die, while tripping on acid. Holy shit, that must have sucked.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Eric Holder to release a statement later defending the prosecutor's actions.

  • Zeb||

    I suppose someone with a weak heart might have an anxiety attack or something and drop dead. But the same thing could happen if he jumped out of a closet and said "boo".

  • sarcasmic||

    Sadly, even if the toxicology comes back and says the acid didn't cause her death, I doubt the charges will be dropped. And if the prosecutor can stack the jury with "Drugs are bad m'kay?" zealots, he just might win the case.

    "Just because the lsd didn't cause her death doesn't mean the lsd didn't cause her death. Would she be alive if he had not given it to her? Of course she would have. That is why you must find this man guilty of murdering his wife."

  • Hyperion||

    Well, something happened, and there was a man around. So obviously it was a mans fault. Duh, you Libertarians sure are dense.

  • sarcasmic||

    There were hard drugs involved. Hallucinogens even. Had to be the drugs. Even if it wasn't the drugs, it was the drugs. Because drugs are bad. Drugs kill. Someone died. Drugs were involved. It had to be the drugs.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    he believes there's enough probable cause to show that Renee died after ingesting the drug.

    I suspect she also died after sleeping in a bed, eating breakfast, handling Federal Reserve Notes, wearing shoes, and watching television.

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    Never fucking ever talk to cops.

  • Zeb||

    Kind of hard to avoid when someone dies an untimely death in your presence.

  • DJK||

    Not really. Lawyer up and shut the fuck up.

  • DJK||

    I can't stress this too much. This is the only thing to do when the police are involved, whether you're guilty or innocent, or they "just want to talk".

    Lawyer up and shut the fuck up.

  • DJK||

    Last time - I expect everyone to follow this advice.

    Lawyer up and shut the fuck up.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Uhhh, because Fuck You! that's why?

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    ---Dr. Elizabeth Sharman, head of the West Virginia Poison Center, hadn't researched the case but said it's the first fatality she's heard of in the state.

    "What we stress is that there is no safe way to get high," Sharman said. "This drug is changing the neurochemical behavior of your brain. It's not suspiring at all that these drugs can cause death."---


    This sick quack needs to be mentioned also. She's never heard of a death from LSD use but isn't surprised. How the fuck is she not surprised by something she has never fucking heard of?

  • NeonCat||

    What's her doctorate in, bureaucracy?

  • Tamfang||

    She's not surprised because she knew in her heart that it had to happen sooner or later (because Drugs Are Bad). What's wrong with that?

  • T||

    I dimly recall LSD is possibly toxic, but the LD-50 is not known with certainty. But it's literally on the order of 1,000 times a typical dose, depending on which estimate you believe. No hard data, obviously. Two hits ain't gonna cut it. You'd have to be injecting gram quantities.

    I think they did trials with mice and rabbits, and found a significant difference in toxicity between the two species. But I may be confusing this with THC? No reference material here.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    You're right, even at 1000 times the usual effective dose, it's non-toxic. People have reached doses that cause permanent psychosis, but if I'm not mistaken, no one has ever managed to reach the lethal dose.

  • Flemur||

    You're mistaken - no permanent effects from 1,000 X (or more) overdose. See LSD paper at archive.org

  • JWS||

    Considering the guy dropped also, can they charge him with attempted suicide? That's probably illegal, right?

  • jasno||

    LSD is apparently pretty safe. What isn't safe are the numerous research chemicals with 'LSD-like' effects which have flooded the market in the last few years. As far as I can tell, a few years ago it was pretty easy to order large quantities of research chemicals from overseas. Many of these chemicals are effective in doses similar to LSD(maybe 10-100x less potent but still small enough to fit on blotter). Unfortunately many of these chemicals are untested and certainly do have fatal effects when taken in large quantities. Where in the past taking 10 hits of LSD might just freak you out a bit, taking 10 hits of 2-C-I or somesuch will fucking kill you. I suspect some assholes ordered in bulk while they still could, meaning we're going to have to deal with this shit on the streets for years to come.

    Add to that the extreme difficulty of LSD synthesis in comparison to the synthesis of the research chemicals. Now you have 2nd year O-Chem students who are cranking out the cheap, crappy chems because its easy.

    If I was someone who was still interested in taking psychedelics(sorry, learned all I can from that already), I would be real wary nowadays, especially of the 'white-on-white' blotter which is clearly made by someone who just doesn't give a fuck. Learn how to identify shrooms and cacti and stay the hell away from research chemicals.

  • Flemur||

    "Now you have 2nd year O-Chem students ..."

    Apparently the unfortunate Mr. Renzelman is a real chemist.

  • Flemur||

    "What kind of warped mentality does it take to compound a widower's trauma by recklessly accusing him of homicide?"

    High-functioning psychopaths.

  • Tamfang||

    Who said "It takes a religion to get good people to do bad things"? Challenge the cult of the benevolent state!

  • Thinking Clearly||

    Ignorance is not a virtue. The prosecutor could have found out that LSD is not toxic before he filed his charge and looked like a fool.

    He could have Googled it. Is that beyond the capacity of a politician?

  • Philip||

    "LSD is considered supertoxic to humans." Source: Lewis' Dictionary of Toxicology / Edition 1. 1st ed. Taylor & Francis, 1998. 662. Print.

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