Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Investigators at the scene saw evidence that Alabama attorney Chace Swatek died from the effects of inhalant abuse, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.
The abuse of inhalants, known in street lingo as "huffing," involves the sniffing of volatile vapors for their intoxicating effects. Chemical vapors that are inhaled for recreational purposes can be found in more than 1,000 common household products.
Swatek came from a family with strong ties to Republican Party politics and a history of unethical behavior in the legal profession. His father, William E. Swatek, has a 30-year history of ethical violations with the Alabama State Bar. His older brother, Dax Swatek, is a well-known Republican Party consultant with ties to Bill Canary and Karl Rove--and a history of threatening actions toward political foes. His sister, Barret Swatek, is an actress perhaps best known for a minor role in The 40 Year Old Virgin.
Chace Swatek was 35 years old when his body was found on February 15 behind a stack of metal pipes across from a Shell station at the intersection of Shelby County 35 and 52 in Pelham. Law-enforcement officials quickly ruled out foul play but said they will not know the cause of death until a toxicology report is completed--and that is expected to take six months to a year.
According to Pelham Police Cpt. Larry Palmer, Swatek was in the midst of a two-mile, round-trip walk from a house he was renting in the Mallard Pointe subdivision to a CVS Pharmacy when he apparently collapsed behind the pipes near the Shelby County Services Building.
Investigators found a CVS bag, containing several items and a receipt, near the body. Palmer said he could not identify the items that Swatek purchased because the investigation is ongoing.
A source close to the Pelham Police Department tells Legal Schnauzer that officers on the scene found evidence that suggests Swatek died from the effects of huffing.
Cardiac arrest is a common cause of death in cases of inhalant abuse. From a report by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC):
Death from inhalant abuse can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant abuse from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure. Other causes of death include asphyxiation, aspiration, or suffocation. A user who is suffering from impaired judgment may also experience fatal injuries from motor vehicle accidents or sudden falls.
According to the NDIC, inhalants come in four groups:
* Volatile solvents--gasoline, nail polish, paint thinner, glue;
* Aerosols--spray paint, deodorant, hair products;
* Gases--butane, propane, nitrous oxide, ether; and
* Nitrites--amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and similar chemicals that are used mainly to enhance sexual experiences, rather than to produce euphoria.
In the months leading to Swatek's death, the Pelham Police Department received a number of calls about odd behavior in and around Swatek's office building, our source says. Palmer denied that the department had received such calls, but did so without checking records.
I contacted Swatek's mother, Lana Daniel Swatek, to give her an opportunity to comment on this story. She denied that huffing had anything to do with her son's death and warned me to be "very careful" in reporting on the subject.