Death of Arizona Man from Chloroquine Ruled an Accident

Maricopa Country medical examiner says Gary Lenius's death was accidental

Tablets containing chloroquine and Plaquenil
Tablets containing chloroquine and Plaquenil / Getty Images
June 17, 2020

The death of an Arizona man who ingested a lethal dose of fish tank treatment in March has been ruled an accidental overdose by the county medical examiner’s office, according to a copy of the report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Gary Lenius, 68, passed away on March 22, after he and his wife drank a fish tank additive that contained the drug chloroquine. The story drew national attention after the man’s wife, Wanda Lenius, said she and her husband ingested the substance because President Trump had praised chloroquine as a promising treatment for coronavirus. She subsequently told the Free Beacon that she had added a teaspoon of non-medicinal chloroquine powder, which is used to treat parasites in fish tanks, into glasses of soda that she and her husband drank.

The Mesa Police Department’s homicide unit has been investigating Lenius’s death since March. Detective Teresa Van Galder, who is handling the case, said the investigation is ongoing, but she does not expect that her findings will differ from the medical examiner’s office.

"I am still waiting on some other things to return prior to the investigation being officially completed," Van Galder told the Free Beacon. "Unless I come across something I do not already have, I do not foresee the finding of the OME changing." The Free Beacon reported that homicide detectives were investigating Lenius's death after Van Galder requested a recording of the Free Beacon's interview with Wanda Lenius.

In the wake of Gary Lenius's death, friends told the Free Beacon that they found it difficult to imagine the retired mechanical engineer ingesting the toxic chemical of his own volition. They also described a rocky relationship between Lenius and his wife, who was charged with domestic assault decades ago but found not guilty. The Free Beacon also reported that Wanda Lenius had been a donor to Democratic causes.

Dr. William T. Stano III, a pathologist at the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner, found that Lenius died from "ingestion of a non-prescription chloroquine phosphate as prophylaxis against COVID-19 infection," according to his June 10, 2020, report. He listed the manner of death as "accident."

"Upon emergency personnel arrival to [the Lenius's] residence, the decedent had an altered level of consciousness and was subsequently transported to a local medical center where he was pronounced dead in the emergency department (ED) shortly after arrival," wrote Stano.

"Based on the autopsy findings and all other investigative information, including medical records, received to date and as available to me, it is my opinion that the decedent died of an acute drug toxicity involving chloroquine," wrote Stano. "It is further my opinion that the manner of death is accident."

"As with all death investigations, opinions expressed herein are amenable to change should new, reliable, and pertinent information come to light," the report continued.

Lenius’s toxicology tests showed he had 17,000 nanograms per milliliter of chloroquine in his blood at the time of his death, indicating that he had ingested around 20 times the typical treatment dose.

Published under: Coronavirus