Boulder Police Close Investigation into Hill Druggings After Blood Samples Botched
The investigation into reports by several female University of Colorado students that they were drugged at parties last fall on University Hill has been closed, at least partially due to botched blood samples that did not allow investigators to test for the presence of drugs in the women’s systems.
Boulder police said a total of six women — all of them CU students — came forward to report they believed they were drugged the night of Oct. 17. All but two of them came separately to police.
According to police reports released this week, three of the women were hospitalized with symptoms at Boulder Community Health’s Foothills Hospital that night or the next morning, and had their blood drawn. Police were able to obtain a warrant for the blood samples on Oct. 23, and sent them to Chematox in Boulder for testing.
But according to the reports, Chematox told police all three blood samples were contained in a “nonstandard sample tube,” which contained “gel clot activator that interferes with testing equipment.”
“Unfortunately, by the time we found out the sample had coagulated, it was obviously too late to draw another sample,” Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said.
Boulder Community Health staff drew the blood in accordance with protocol, according to spokesman Rich Sheehan. Sheehan said the blood draws were for diagnostic purposes at the time and that police were not involved,
“Blood was drawn from these patients for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment,” Sheehan said in a statement. “We followed our standard protocols. Our records indicate we were not aware of any police involvement at the time the samples were taken. We did not become aware of a police investigation until six days later when the police served a warrant for the blood samples.
But while hospital staff did not know the women would later become the center of an investigation, Sheehan said warrants for blood draws are not unusual and the hospital had not previously heard of its samples being rejected for testing.
“Such warrants are common,” Sheehan said in a statement. “This is the first time we have been informed of a problem with subsequent testing of blood samples.”
Chematox did not return requests for more information.
As for police, Aulabaugh said they have talked with hospital staff but acknowledge they have to treat patients based on the information they have at the time.
“I know that we have spoken with BCH, but in part they have to go by what the patient tells them,” Aulabaugh said. “So I wouldn’t say there was any violation of policy that occurred that we were aware of. They worked off of information they had, we investigated information we had and evidence we were able to obtain.”
But without the testing, detectives could not prove any of the women were drugged. All of the women described similar nights that included going to fraternity parties on University Hill and drinking from a community bottle of vodka before waking up with little memory of anything after that.
However, while three of the women reported being at a party at the same fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, the other three said they were at different fraternities: Kappa Sigma, Pi Kappa and Sigma Pi, which was ordered to cease operations after the news of the alleged druggings came forward even before the fraternities in the report were named.
Ultimately, police closed the investigation due to a lack of leads.
“We weren’t able to prove a drugging had occurred, that’s why it was closed as ‘unfounded,’” Aulabaugh said. “It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it just means we did not have the evidence for the case to proceed. But if we do get evidence down the road, it doesn’t mean this case can’t be reopened.”
Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/mitchellbyars