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Duke Hospital patient's death investigated as possible homicide

Posted October 13, 2010

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— Duke University police are investigating the death of a Duke Hospital patient last week as a possible homicide, according to search warrants.

Cheryl Lynn Suber, 30, of Garner, died at the hospital on Oct. 5 of a cardiac arrest. An attending physician was suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death, however, and asked for a police investigation, according to two search warrants returned Monday.

"At the current time, we do not know the cause of death or whether a crime has occurred," Duke University Police Chief John Dailey said in a statement. "We can say that this appears to have been an isolated case and that no medical personnel were involved, except in responding appropriately to the situation."

Dailey declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation and patient privacy concerns.

Suber had sickle-cell anemia and was hospitalized frequently, according to her obituary. The search warrants state that she was in Duke Hospital for a non-life-threatening condition and was seen walking around the hospital and in relatively good health shortly before her death.

"We are devastated. The family is devastated. It was a complete shock," Suber's uncle, Kevin Suber said.

Duke University Hospital, Duke Hospital Duke Hospital patient's death investigated as possible homicide

Suber's boyfriend, identified as David Bass, visited her room on Oct. 5 and, as he was leaving, told a nurse that someone should check on Suber, the search warrants state. The nurse found Suber unresponsive and issued a Code Blue alert.

As hospital personnel were trying to resuscitate Suber, they found a syringe in her bed, according to the search warrants. The syringe was labeled "saline," but the liquid inside was colored and opaque.

Nurses, physicians and a hospital pharmacist said that they didn't recognize the liquid in the syringe and that it was inconsistent with any medications administered on the unit where Suber was being treated, the search warrant states.

Investigators interviewed Bass, and he told them he noticed something was wrong with her and immediately notified a nurse, according to the search warrants.

Another nurse told investigators that she saw Bass go into the room 10 to 20 minutes before the Code Blue alert was issued.

Duke police obtained the search warrants to access Suber's medical records and to review hospital security video, which investigators said would establish when Bass went into and left Suber's room.

Suber's relatives said they weren't notified by police about their investigation.

"She is no longer with us, and we don't know why," Kevin Suber said. "If there has been an omission of information from the hospital or from law enforcement, we'd be grateful for being included in any and all communications."

37 Comments

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  • thinkin out loud Oct 14, 2010

    The media is to blame for the way the family found out about this. Why would the police tell them they were looking into this as a possible homicide until they find something concrete to make them think it was. It would cause additional strain on the family to tell them this just to find out later it was not.

    Now that it's out I am sure Duke Police have spoken to the family. Let them do their job and let's see what happens. There are other possibilities besides homicide

  • imwithpeedee Oct 14, 2010

    First, let me say that I know that everyone is entitled to their own opinions about situations. I have read many comments about other stories on WRAL & became very angry about what was being said in the GOLO section & never responded however today I must respond.

    Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to let GOLO members know that although this story is interesting & newsworthy, we should always remember that family members of the decease read these comments. Certain things that are being said, shouldn't be said out of respect for the family.

    Thirdly, GOLO members should know that the family is just trying to seek information about what happened to Cheryl. The family has not been kept "in the know". Imagine how you would feel if the first time you heard about a possible homicide investigation because your family & friends are calling because they saw it on the news. How awful & disrespectful.

    R.I.P. Cheryl Lynn.

    For the record, Cheryl is my 1st cousin.

  • Phrostbite Oct 14, 2010

    How could anyone possibly conclude this family is looking for some money from Duke!? There was nothing in this article to suggest that. Don't jump the gun, genius! Any rational person could put the pieces together pretty easy, but I'll refrain from the obvious for now.

  • kidsrn Oct 14, 2010

    I do work at Duke and frankly, policing visitors is not my highest priority. I know that we have a very strict policy regarding visitors/telephone inquiries on the unit that I work on. To me, it seems that it was not Duke's fault---nor any Duke employee's fault---that this happened. Sounds like the nurses responded quickly and appropriately when the BF told them he thought something was wrong with this poor lady. Why didn't he stick around if he was that concerned about her?

  • Wolfheel Tarpack Oct 14, 2010

    The autopsy should shed light on what the opaque substance is. Sounds like foul play ... hospital staff must log drugs in and out for specific patients. Visitors are SUPPOSED to sign in, though if they know the room number, which hospital staff are not supposed to share unless the person is next of kin and have been put on a list to be allowed to visit. Although, people up to no good can get around the best security and systems.

    It appears somebody wanted this young woman gone. It also appears the family is so quick to blame Duke ... sounds like denial and a quest for money to me.

  • uncchick4303 Oct 13, 2010

    I had known Cheryl since I was in 1st grade and I was very sad to hear about her passing. RIP and I am sorry about the family's loss.

  • kelia Oct 13, 2010

    r.i.p. she a very pretty lady .i hope your get who done this to her.

  • robrtllewellyn Oct 13, 2010

    Very interesting. I predict the Duke machine will hush this up pretty quickly. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I'm surprised the search warrants weren't sealed at the request of the hospital.

  • Go Figure Oct 13, 2010

    Autopsy results, please

  • down by the pond Oct 13, 2010

    what about the BF? he was last one with her ?

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