Expert theorizes alternative cause of death in Priscilla Slater case

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published November 17, 2020

 A new theory from the Oakland County chief medical examiner is that Priscilla Slater, who died in June while in the custody of the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety, might have died as a result of alcohol withdrawal.

A new theory from the Oakland County chief medical examiner is that Priscilla Slater, who died in June while in the custody of the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety, might have died as a result of alcohol withdrawal.

HARPER WOODS — The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating a new theory in the cause of death of Priscilla Slater, a 38-year-old Harper Woods woman who died while in the custody of the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety.

Slater was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. June 9 at the Parkcrest Inn in Harper Woods, following an incident in which her boyfriend, Lewis Nichols, 27, of Detroit, allegedly fired 18 shots into the parking lot. She was held in the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety’s holding cells, where she was discovered dead hours later.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said that she died due to an undetermined cardiac problem and may have suffered from a seizure in her jail cell. However, after reviewing the facts of the case, Oakland County Chief Medical Examiner Ljubisa Dragovic said the death is consistent with alcohol withdrawal.

“(Alcohol withdrawal) is the most probable mechanism in the cause of death in the case of that woman based on what the report said,” said Dragovic. “Any withdrawal from addiction provides the opportunity for the person to die if not treated. … For those who imbibe regularly, it can hit them very hard within a few hours.”

Dragovic said a more thorough examination of Slater’s case would need to be done to confirm this theory, as he was only working off the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s report and had no access to Slater’s body himself.

“I did not see her body,” he said. “People are supposed to address this possibility, and as a public servant I want to make sure this possibility is looked at. Reportedly, while she was in lockup she had some seizure activity based on security cameras. She was then found dead several hours later. The sister of the woman told reporters that her sister was a heavy drinker, and there is no one in lockup to give her any alcohol to handle that withdrawal. The alcohol would have been out of her system by the time she died, so it might not be immediately evident in her toxicology report after she died.”

Due to this new theory, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which is conducting its own investigation of Slater’s death, said it is pursuing additional experts to look into the matter.

“This information was not part of any investigation that we had,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a prepared statement. “Because of this new information, we feel we need to get an independent medical examiner to review the report.”

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said that since the Prosecutor’s Office is seeking further information, it cannot comment on an open investigation.

Dragovic said this new theory is a distinct possibility that should be looked at.

“People talk about somebody that consumes a lot of alcohol and (they) get shakes. That means the body has adapted itself to higher alcohol levels,” he explained. “When that higher level drops below a threshold, the seizures can begin. It’s not always fatal, but they can certainly die as a result.”

Slater’s family is being represented by attorney Geoffrey Fieger. His office did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.