New Brunswick

Richard Valiquette's criminal negligence trial hears from pathologist

The "extremely potent" psychedelic drug 25i may have contributed to the death of Saint John teen Gavin Adams nearly three years ago, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified Monday at the criminal negligence trial of Richard Valiquette.

Gavin Adams, 17, died from hypothermia after taking 25i, testifies Dr. Mohammad Hossain

Richard Valiquette, accompanied here by his girlfriend Aimee Fournier (on the right) and another unidentified supporter, previously pleaded guilty to producing the drug DMT. (CBC)

The "extremely potent" psychedelic drug 25i may have contributed to the death of Saint John teen Gavin Adams nearly three years ago, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified Monday at the criminal negligence trial of Richard Valiquette.

Gavin, 17, whose body was discovered half-buried in snow on Dec. 16, 2013, died from hypothermia, said Dr. Mohammad Hossain, a pathologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

The drug 25i, which was found in Gavin's blood, "causes poor judgment," he said.

Valiquette, 28, is on trial at the court of Queen's Bench in Saint John for criminal negligence causing death in connection with the drug-related death of Gavin.

He is accused of giving the 17-year-old a substance not intended for human consumption and in reckless disregard for his safety.

Dr. Mohammad Hossain, a pathologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital, conducted the autopsy on Dec. 18, 2013, two days after Gavin Adams' frozen body was discovered. (CBC)
Gavin went missing on Dec. 14, 2013, after visiting Valiquette's apartment in the city's north end, the court has heard.

Two days later, a search-and-rescue crew found his frozen body in a parking lot on Chesley Drive.

Gavin's blood sample tested positive for 25i-NBOMe, NMS Labs in Pennsylvania found.

The drug was not a controlled substance in Canada at the time, the court heard.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was amended in April to include 25i under Schedule 3 and the changes only took effect last week, on Oct. 12.

Time of death unclear

The body of Gavin Adams, 17, was discovered on Dec. 16, 2013, a short distance from where he was last seen two days earlier. (CBC)
"The probable cause of death is environmental cold exposure and possible contributing factor is the consumption of extremely potent psychedelic drug," Hossain stated in his autopsy report.

Hossain, who performed the autopsy on Dec. 18, and reviewed photos of Gavin's body, where it was discovered, said he could not pinpoint the time of death, nor the date of death, because it was so cold — between –10 C and –18 C.

As hypothermia advances, the person's heart beat slows, then becomes irregular and ineffective until the heart finally stops, he said.

Hossain also noted Gavin's right lung weighed more than his left — 820 grams compared to 260 grams. That could have been caused by pneumonia, bleeding or aspiration of food, he said.

There were no signs of choking, head trauma, heart disease, neck injury or epilepsy, and no evidence of a catastrophic injury, he added.

Did not accelerate hypothermia

Dr. Matthew Bowes, the chief medical examiner from Nova Scotia, reviewed the case and found no evidence of disease or injury either.

Bowes testified 25i is a new drug, but it affects the same reactors as LSD. He did not find any evidence that it affects the body's susceptibility to hypothermia, he said.

He believes the drug could have caused Gavin to do something unwise, however.

Bowes raised the example of somebody getting so high, they decide to jump off a building. Although the person dies as a result of the injuries sustained, it was the drug that affected the person's decision-making, he said.

Valiquette told Saint John police he added 25i to 100 squares from a perforated blotter sheet and of those, Gavin and his friend Adrian Goguen used eight, Const. Sean Rocca testified.

Valiquette told police he ordered the ingredients online, Rocca said.

A search of Valiquette's computer also revealed many online searches about making synthetic drugs, where to order ingredients, and spreadsheets that appeared to project how much money could be made by selling them, the officer said.

Earlier in the trial, Valiquette's girlfriend Aimee Fournier testified "Ricky" told her he purchased the 25i online, put it onto blotter paper, which was then put into tin foil.

Valiquette pleaded guilty on Oct. 3 to producing DMT. Two other charges against him — drug trafficking and possession of a drug for the purposes of trafficking — were dropped.

He was initially charged with manslaughter on Nov. 25, 2014, in connection with Gavin's death, but that charge was withdrawn by consent in July 2015.

With files from Rachel Cave