Berea police are investigating the weekend death of a South Carolina woman who had been found unresponsive at a Native American church.
Lindsay Poole, 33, of Anderson, S.C., was pronounced dead Saturday at KentuckyOne Health — St. Joseph Berea, said Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison.
The woman had been taken to the hospital after falling at Oklevueha Native American Church of the Peaceful Mountain Way in Berea, Cornelison said.
The body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Frankfort for a full autopsy, including toxicology tests, Cornelison said. He said Monday afternoon that had not received an preliminary autopsy results.
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“The report was that she had fallen, but did she pass out and fall or did she die and fall? I don’t know,” Cornelison said.
He said he received the call about the woman shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Police were called to assist emergency medical services, said Berea police spokesman Lt. Jake Reed.
Reed said evidence was collected at the church on Chestnut Street, down from the police department. “It’s literally less than a minute from our building,” Reed said.
He would not say what type of evidence was collected.
“Our detectives are following up on it and are currently working on it,” Reed said. “That’s really all I can say. ...It’s one of those things where we want to do our due diligence and make sure we cover all our bases and don’t want to release information prematurely.”
The church website says “Oklevueha Native American Church accepts indigenous earth-based healing sacraments as central to our established religious belief.” These include ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew that indigenous people of the Americas believe connects them to a higher power.
Ayahuasca contains Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a controlled substance that is ordinarily not legal to possess or distribute according to U.S. law. However, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 make exceptions for people with sincerely held religious beliefs.
The site goes on to say that “statistically significant instances of verifiable harmful complications with ayahuasca are virtually nonexistent. Participants are cautioned, however, to abstain from certain foods and medications in the few weeks leading up to the ceremony due to possible harmful interactions. We ask for sincere and responsible cooperation from anyone seeking to participate in any ceremonies.”
The church’s website says a group ceremony was scheduled there for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The site did not say what was included in the ceremony but said it included “three days of counseling.”
The site also says that “each participant in Oklevueha Native American Church ceremonies must agree to comply with all directions or instructions concerning the safety and well being of all in attendance, from one-hour prior, during, and three hours after ceremonies being conducted by an Oklevueha Native American Church Medicine Person.”
A phone number was not listed on the church website, and an email was not immediately returned.
Cornelison said it will take some time before toxicology results are back.
Reed said he had not heard of the church until the death occurred.
“I don’t think we’ve had any dealings with it, so I don’t know how long it’s been there,” he said.