LSD death would be state first, officials say
CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- A Roane County woman who died after taking two doses of LSD could be the first reported acid-related fatality in the state and one of the few documented globally.
Prosecutors are still awaiting toxicology results to make that distinction.
An autopsy hasn't been completed on Renee Honaker, 30, of Left Hand, who died last week. Lab results for the acid strips she allegedly took aren't back yet either, Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Downey said on Saturday.
Police charged Renee's husband, Todd Anthony Honaker, 34, with first-degree murder after the couple apparently each took two hits of LSD on March 1. Renee later fell to the floor, began convulsing and died.
Police also charged Chad M. Renzelman, 32, of Kennewick, Wash., the chemist they said manufactured the drug, with first-degree murder. He is being held in jail awaiting extradition to West Virginia.
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."
His office received a limited statement from Renzelman in Washington, he said. State Police would travel to extradite Renzelman no later than March 14.
Downey said his initial research into LSD-related fatalities hasn't returned very many reported cases. There are few documented around the world and those rarely have resulted in criminal prosecution.
His inquiry into the case has focused more on LSD's destructive and possibly fatal side affects.
"My understanding is that it speeds up your heart and gives you anxiety," he said.
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."
Her office rarely receives emergency calls related to LSD, but said overdose can still happen.
LSD affects serotonin receptors in the brain and can cause serious long-term side effects. It's manufactured in amateur laboratories around the country and Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials have warned that LSD manufacturers vary in their experience and with the chemicals they use.
Renzelman, a chemist at a nuclear power plant in Washington, apparently manufactured hundreds of doses of LSD from his home, Downey said. Authorities allegedly found a collection of research chemicals used in LSD production and an apparent working lab.
Downey said Renzelman sold eight doses of LSD to Todd Honaker and mailed it to him in an anniversary greeting card late last month. Inside the card, Renzelman included instructions on how to ingest the LSD and prices to buy more.
"He included a letter also asking if [Honaker] wanted a larger quantity and he would get it for him for a reduced price," Downey said. "He said he would sell 100 hits for $300."
Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.