Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Heart attack caused Sun Valley dorm death

Man died after fight in February with roommate

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County coroner has determined that a heart attack was the likely cause of death of a Sun Valley Co. employee who died in February following a fight with his roommate at an employee dormitory.

"Mr. James had a pre-existing heart condition, which may have contributed to his death," said Coroner Russell Mikel, referring to 49-year-old Jerome James. "He did not die from the trauma he suffered from the fight."

James' roommate, 19-year-old Corey D. Drehmel, was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter following the incident at the Oregon Dormitory on the evening of Feb. 6. The charge was dismissed on Feb. 13, mainly because a cause of death had not been established.

Mikel has forwarded a report on the cause of death to the Sun Valley Police Department. Police Chief Cameron Daggett said the case remains open pending a decision from the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas did not respond to an e-mail request from the Idaho Mountain Express on the status of the case by press deadline Tuesday.

However, Blaine County court records indicate that a possible new charge and case against Drehmel is sealed by judicial order.

According to Sun Valley police reports, Drehmel was involved in a fight with James inside the confined two-man dormitory. When police arrived they found the 185-pound Drehmel battered and bruised from the altercation. James, who weighed 250 pounds, was found "unresponsive" on the floor and bleeding from the nose. He was later pronounced dead at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

Mikel told the Idaho Mountain Express that he couldn't definitively say James died from a heart attack, but said a heart attack was the probable cause of death.

"Mr. James had a pre-existing heart condition that may have contributed to his death," he said.

Mikel described the condition as "cardiomegaly," often referred to as an enlarged heart.

"He was very susceptible to irregular heartbeat, and stress may have brought that on," Mikel said. "We can't say the stress of being in a fight was enough to cause his death, but it certainly may have brought it on."

Terry Smith:

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