December 14, 2016 08:30 AM
For months, the cause of death for a popular west metro realtor was unknown - until now.
KSTP obtained the autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner on 48-year-old Paul Pudlitzke. It revealed he died from fentanyl toxicity. It's one of the same potent drugs that killed his friend and former boss, Prince.
It was back in June when police were called to the Minnetonka home of Pudlitzke. By the time they arrived, he was already gone. Early indications were he died from an overdose. Investigators suspected there was something else in what appeared to be a white powdery substance.
The medical examiner's report from Hennepin County, confirmed that suspicion. There was a toxic mix of cocaine and fentanyl in his system, more than his body could handle.
As a longtime substance abuse expert for the state, Carol Falkowski understands fentanyl-related fatalities are sudden, swift and surging. In Hennepin County alone, they've tripled in two years. Statewide, there were 36 last year, "this is a really strong drug and just a little bit can kill you."
It only takes an amount smaller than a coin, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The agency puts fentanyl at 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
It's not clear how Pudlitzke took the high-powered opiate. The autopsy shows it was self-administered and the manner of death was ruled accidental, "it's often the case that the people who are buying it have no idea and the people who are selling it may have no idea that it has fentanyl in it either," according to Falkowski.
Minnetonka police investigated Pudlitzke's death as a crime and set out to track down the supplier. Officer's knew of Pudlitzke's connection to Prince, who's death two months earlier is the most famous example of the dangers posed by fentanyl.
Before being a realtor, Pudlitzke ran the rock star's Minneapolis nightclub "Glam Slam" in the 90s. But police say they came up empty and there's no indication Pudlitzke shared the same supplier as Prince. What has become clear, is how rampant fentanyl is.
Minnesota state law lets police go after the person who provided a drug that results in death. The criminal charge would be third degree murder. In Pudlitzke's death, a case for prosecution couldn't be made. The death investigation for Prince is ongoing.
County prosecutors along with the U.S. Attorney's office have made it a priority to hold drug suppliers accountable. And just last month, law enforcement in Hennepin County made the largest fentanyl bust not only in the state, but the country. Nearly three-quarters of a gallon was seized from a home in Bloomington.
And last year, the DEA along with the CDC put out a nationwide alert about the dangers of illicit fentanyl.
It was officially named an illegal substance in September.
Updated: December 14, 2016 08:30 AM
Created: December 13, 2016 10:25 PM
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