DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has learned that thousands of dollars worth of narcotics and pain pills are missing from what was thought to be a secure storeroom at the Douglas County Coroner’s Office and are presumed to have been stolen.
“Those pills didn’t grow legs and walk out of here on their own,” said Douglas County Coroner Lora Thomas.
Thomas, who was elected coroner in 2010, said the missing meds were discovered in September when she and her staff conducted an inventory and found that thousands of pills investigators had confiscated years earlier from death scenes were gone. She believes the medications were stolen well before she became coroner.
“I believe there could have been a significant value” to the missing medications, said Thomas.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirms it has launched a criminal investigation into the missing meds.
“I was able to confirm that we are investigating missing medications from the coroner’s office,” wrote Sgt. Ron Hanavan. “This case is very much in the infancy of the investigation and it is open and ongoing, so I can’t release much info. We don’t want to jeopardize the case and make any statement at this time.”
While both he and Thomas declined to provide specifics, one source familiar with the investigation told CBS4 that nearly 2,000 pills are missing — medications like oxycodone, fentanyl patches and roxinol.
There is a massive street market for pain relief drugs like the type taken from the coroner’s office. One oxycontin tablet can cost as much as $80 on the black market and one oxycodone pill can bring up to $40.
When pressed by CBS4, Thomas did say that whoever took the pain medications left behind other medications like anti-cholesterol pills such as Lipitor and heart medications.
“Someone could make the conclusion that someone was targeting taking the narcotics only,” said Thomas.
The pharmaceuticals are collected by investigators at death scenes. They use the medications to learn who the deceased person’s doctor was, the medical problems the person was experiencing, and if the person was abusing their medications.
Thomas told CBS4 that since discovering the missing stash, she has completely changed security procedures. Medications that used to be in a storeroom available to investigators, temporary employees and maintenance workers, are now kept in area that only three people have access to and cameras record who enters and leaves the room.
Thomas says she wants people to know “the Douglas County Coroner’s Office is secure now and things are being properly taken care of and there’s not going to be any more pills walking out the door.”
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com