The former contract coroner of San Luis Obispo County, who recently departed amid a series of scandals, reversed his own ruling that an LSD overdose caused the death of a 20-year-old Ventura woman, who died after attending a music festival at Lake San Antonio.
In turn, the SLO County Sheriff’s Office changed the official cause of death for Baylee Gatlin, despite previously saying it would stand by the initial ruling.
Walter, whom the sheriff’s office replaced earlier this month with a full-time medical examiner, was under fire for driving under the influence on the way to an autopsy and making multiple disputed rulings on causes of death. The state of California has been seeking to revoke his license over the DUI incident.
After Walter ruled that Gatlin died because of an LSD overdose, multiple medical experts publicly disputed his ruling.
Subsequently, Walter issued a new ruling, determining that Gatlin died of multi-organ failure, hyperthermia and dehydration. Other significant contributors to her death included coagulopathy — a bleeding disorder — and possible LSD intoxication, according to Walter’s new ruling.
SLO County Coroner-Detective Rory Linn received Walter’s new ruling on Sept. 12. Linn then updated Gatlin’s death certificate with the amended causes of death sent by Walter.
Linn authored a report about the changes, stating further lab tests were conducted on Gatlin’s vitreous toxicology samples that were obtained during the initial autopsy. He also wrote that the events leading up to Gatlin’s death required further detail.
According to the new account of Gatlin’s final days, she arrived at the Lightning in the Bottle festival on May 24. While at the festival, she was possibly hanging around two separate groups, which included shady people who were believed to be methamphetamine users, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office. Friends were aware Gatlin was using LSD at the festival, and she was possibly witnessed taking at least 2.5 doses.
On the evening of May 27, Gatlin was found in an altered mental state and was escorted by friends to event staff. Ambulances were dispatched the festival about six hours later, around 1 a.m. on May 28. She arrived at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton at 2:14 a.m. and was pronounced dead about an hour and a half later.
Reports indicate Gatlin was a daily marijuana user and possibly used Aderall without a prescription. When Linn searched her property at the hospital, he found methamphetamine, marijuana and LSD.
It is likely Gatlin did not ingest any narcotics for about six hours prior to her death.
Last month, when Walter’s report was being scrutinized, Cipolla said the sheriff’s office stands by its expert and his conclusion. On Wednesday, Cipolla told the Tribune that, since Walter is no longer employed by the sheriff’s office, all questions about the case should be directed to Walter at the Microcorre Diagnostic Lab in Tulare.