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Investigators Probe Cyanide Deaths

October 9, 1986

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Investigators say they believe the cyanide poisoning deaths of two men at a family gathering was an isolated incident, but they are uncertain whether the deaths were accidental or intentional.

″It could be homicide, suicide or an accident,″ said Larry Wallace, agent in charge of criminal investigations for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The two men took pills of methaqualone laced with cyanide during a family get-together Sunday in Cheatham County, authorities said. Methaqualone is a sedative.

Steven J. Lichtgarn, 44, died shortly after taking the pill and his brother-in-law, John S. Cox, 32, died Wednesday.

Cox, of Nashville, died of respiratory failure, according to a family statement read by Baptist Hospital spokeswoman Debby Koch.

″His organs have been donated so that others might benefit from this tragedy,″ the statement said.

Cox was in a coma when he arrived at the hospital Sunday night and never regained consciousness, Mrs. Koch said.

Cheatham County Sheriff Dorris Weakley said the pills taken by Cox and Lichtgarn at Lichtgarn’s home near Ashland City may have been homemade.

″This thing is getting more and more complicated because we don’t know where they got them (the pills),″ Weakley said.

Investigators said they did not believe the case involved a drug dealer supplying tainted products because there have been no other reports of cyanide poisonings.

″We don’t know how cyanide got in the pills, but I feel like they were ‘make-believe’ pills - something that wasn’t from a regular company, something that somebody was making,″ the sheriff said.

Among the possibilities being considered was that the cyanide came from Lichtgarn’s Nashville jewelry business, Weakley said. Jewelers use cyanide to clean gold, he said.

Lichtgarn’s wife, Lynda Sue Lichtgarn, 31, also took one of the pills and became ill, but did not require hospitalization, Weakley said.

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