Autopsy Shows Sleep Aid in Steele’s Blood

An autopsy report on John Rodman Steele, a Highland Park man who killed himself after attacking his wife in early July, shows that he had .05 mg of zolpidem, a prescription medication used to treat insomnia, in his bloodstream.

Zolpidem is commercially sold as Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, or  Zolpimist and can be manufactured as a tablet or spray, according to the National Institute of Health.

The drug slows down brain activity and allows those who have difficulty falling or staying asleep do so. It belongs to a class of medications that are referred to as sedative-hypnotics.

Many neighbors and friends who knew Steele said that his actions were uncharacteristic for the family man who was an active part of Highland Park United Methodist Church. He was a business man who taught children’s classes at the church and he and his wife, who were described to have a strong marriage, were leaders of a prayer group.

Among normal symptoms, there are many dangerous side-effects to zolpidem, some of which include behavior and mental health changing in unexpected ways or unconsciously performing various acts while sleeping.

On the day of the incident, Steele’s wife awoke to him trying to stab her in their upstairs bedroom. After being stopped by his son, Steele went down to the kitchen and took his own life.

Update: According to additional reports from the Medical Examiner’s office, Steele had been seeing a psychiatrist who was helping him deal with a two to three year history of major depression and Vicodin abuse. WFAA has the investigative narrative of the autopsy.

22 thoughts on “Autopsy Shows Sleep Aid in Steele’s Blood

  • August 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm
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    Everything sunny all the times always. Applies to both North Korea and the Park Cities.

    Just omit the other things going wrong in this guy’s life and blame the meds. So anyone of the tens of millions who use these drugs is liable to do the same thing?

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  • August 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm
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    This story omits a lot of other details.

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  • August 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm
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    It would be helpful to report the other part of the story – that he had been battling depression, Vicodin addiction, work stress, et al. –drug addiction and depression are equal opportunity killers in our country – it can happen to anyone. We’ve seen so many instances where untreated mental illness spawns violence — and yet so many people are too embarrassed to talk about it. Very sad for all involved —

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  • August 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm
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    I agree. A lot is omitted and therefore misleading. Either write the entire story or just don’t include it.

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  • August 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm
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    I am just trying to present all the facts that we have on the incident. If you know more about his personal life and how it may have effected him, please email me at [email protected]

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  • August 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm
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    It would be a stretch to call this a story, or article.

    Should have just stated the facts. If you are going to offer context, offer FULL context. Not just a definately skewed take on it, focusing on the negative side effects of these drugs. Like, how many people take Ambien. How strong a dose is .05mg. How many other violent crimes can be attributed to Ambien use, and how prevalent are these side effects, etc. etc.

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  • August 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm
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    Andrew, I hope it was just a typo. For some reason, that affected me more than usual.

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  • August 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm
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    Haha. Yeah CP, feel free to throw down some quotes! Say anything negative, even if true, about this guy and see how that turns out.

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  • August 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm
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    In the DMN article from Sunday’s paper, his wife was quoted from police investigations saying that he was struggling with an addiction to Vicodin, money problems, and depression. Obviously we can’t officially “blame” anything but it’s pretty clear that he had some issues that he was dealing with even before the effects of Ambien. I’ve just heard way too many scary Ambien stories to dismiss the idea that it could have played a big part in the tragedy.

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  • August 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm
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    I would like to see more in-depth coverage on Ambien. It is well-documented in medical literature that psychosis from Ambien can occur in a small percentage of users, and since this drug is so commonly-prescribed and widely used, it would be worthwhile for more public education on this topic to occur. It is so hard for people to imagine that this type of reaction can occur from Ambien, but there are many similar stories out there (google: Ambien-Induced Psychosis). This is a heart-breaking event for this family, and they need our support.

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  • August 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm
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    Yes, the family needs our support, I can’t imagine what they are going through.

    This man was truly troubled, and I hope that he is finally at peace. But for all of those who want to make sense of this, well, we should wait until all of the facts are in. What people perceive and reality are often very different. Let’s wait until all of the facts are out (good and bad) before coming to a conclusion.

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  • August 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm
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    @ friend:
    So you are still sticking with the blaming of a sleep aid that millions take daily? His dosage was half what an adult should be taking or the equivalent of what an elderly person would be prescribed. Maybe you should research vicodin withdrawal and/or addition, along with getting sued for a ponzi like scheme and then check the stabbing of ones wife along with suicide percentage.
    This scapegoating of Ambien sounds like something from the OJ defense team.

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  • August 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm
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    TFAO, just because millions take something doesn’t mean it can’t have terrible side effects in a few. Just one example: millions of people, possibly a billion, have take antibiotics, but only a small percentage have severe life-threatening allergic reactions to them.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 9:35 am
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    Parkie,

    This man’s actions speak for themselves. When this happened his friends circled the wagons and spoke about how perfect he was and how it was all the drug’s fault. Now we know that he had serious issues, which by the way most us of also have. My personal opinion is when you keep up the facade of the perfect life the pressure builds.

    Let’s be honest, he is not the only person we know in HP that has committed suicide lately. Seems to me everyone should be concerned with how to lower the rate among 40 something males who off themselves.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 11:08 am
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    CP, this man’s actions do not speak for themselves! The circumstances about the incident are very odd and not easily explained at all. The public knows that he was having some financial difficulties and health issues–but that doesn’t tell us anything, except he was just like the rest of us.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm
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    @ Parkie,

    We NOW know about his financial difficulties and “health” issues, but at the time all we heard how postcard perfect he was.

    And he is not just like the rest of us; I do not use Ambien, I am not addicted to Vicodin, I have not been accused (to be fair, accused, not substantiated in any way) of being in a Ponzi scheme, etc. If by like the rest of us you mean that we are all flawed and imperfect, then yes. But there is a big difference.

    Personally, I hope that there is an explanation of this, for the sake of his family, I really do. But as I’ve stated earlier, let’s wait for the facts before rushing to an answer, either way.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm
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    XT

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you 100%. What I meant was that we all have hurdles to overcome be it illness, financial situations, divorce, ect.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm
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    I agree with XT as well. He was not like the rest of us. Really he wasn’t.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 11:26 pm
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    Another Mother,
    Did you know Rod? Do you have any idea what a wonderful father and husband he was? Do you know how many hours he donated to volunteering at our schools, sporting events, coaching YMCA youth teams,and teaching Sunday School classes, and leading Confirmation at HPUMC? Are you fortunate enough to know his lovely family? …or do you just believe everything the media spews out?
    Rod Steele was a man of values, integrity and faith. He has been unjustly treated by local media, and his family cannot speak out publicly yet, but know that his family and friends stand by him. He was not in his right mind when he took his own life, likely due to Ambien psychosis. It is nearly inpossible for the average person to understand how such a reaction to a commonly-used medication can occur, but there are many people who have tragically died or been ruined by this drug. It was reported (not proven) that Rod may have struggled with depression or Vicodin addiction at some point, but there is no evidence that these were a factor in his death. (and how many families will be affected by similar
    struggles? yes, most will…)
    You say that he was not like us? He was superior in many ways to most of us, and It was a privelege to have known him.

    Have fun casting stones, you unflawed individuals.

    RIP, Rod Steele, and blessings to your family.

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