Death probed for poisoning

Death probed for poisoning

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GRANVILLE - State Police are investigating whether a prank at a Halloween party, during which a woman poured eye medication in a drink, resulted in a Fort Ann woman's death last fall.

State Police are looking into whether criminal charges, which could include a homicide charge, should be brought in the death of Marceline "Marcie" Jones, 49, of Comstock.

Jones died Nov. 2, less than two days after an acquaintance apparently put Visine in her drink the night of Oct. 31. The acquaintance had seen a similar prank in the 2005 movie "Wedding Crashers," and in the movie Visine caused diarrhea and stomach pains to the person who consumed it, officials and a lawyer for the woman said.

Diarrhea, though, is one of the less serious side effects of the active ingredient in Visine, Tetrahydrozoline HCl. The chemical helps the eyes by causing blood vessels to constrict, and can cause vascular, nervous system and breathing problems, among other effects, if swallowed.

State Police investigators began an inquiry in recent days after learning of the apparent poisoning through a third party who knew of it, officials said.

State Police would not discuss the matter, and Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said he was aware of the investigation but could not provide details as of Wednesday.

An autopsy conducted after Jones' death found she died of unspecified "natural causes," but toxicology tests were not yet complete at the time that police heard the story about the drink tampering, relatives of Jones said Wednesday.

Jones' brother, Ken Pfeiffer of Queensbury, said forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden was asked to review the autopsy and subsequent toxicology tests and determine whether Visine could have played a role in the woman's death.

"The stuff is a poison," Pfeiffer said. "They're investigating, but they haven't come to any conclusions."

Another brother, Alan Pfeiffer of South Glens Falls, said he was just told of the investigation Tuesday by State Police, and that it was in its "preliminary" stages.

Ken Pfeiffer said police indicated the woman will likely be charged with a misdemeanor for putting the chemical in the drink, even if it cannot be shown it played a role in the death.

The woman who is being blamed, whose name was not released, hired Granville lawyer Ronald Daigle after learning that police were investigating the matter. Daigle said she has been "very, very upset" about the matter for months.

Daigle said there were apparently a number of other "pranks" being played with food and drinks of others at the same party. It was unclear if State Police were looking into those incidents as well.

Daigle said he does not believe enough Visine was put in the drink to be toxic. He said Jones had a history of health problems before her death.

"The toxic level of Visine is a large, large amount," he said.

A number of other Visine products have a variety of active ingredients.

The product's packaging advises users to contact a poison control center if the Visine is ingested. Its material safety data safety sheet indicates it is "very hazardous in case of ingestion."

A number of people have been prosecuted in New York for putting Visine in drinks or food and causing illness, including two in the New York City area in 2007, according to media reports.

Jones was the well-liked manager of the floral department at the Price Chopper store in Granville, members of her family said.

Jones and her brothers grew up in the former Pfeiffer's Flowerland & Greenhouse, founded by their father, George Pfeiffer, and run for decades in Queensbury until closing in 1995.

"She was a renowned florist, one of the best in the area," Alan Pfeiffer said.

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