William “Billy” Tucker died last month because he smoked too much synthetic marijuana, Lancaster County’s chief deputy sheriff said.
Tucker, 18, died Oct. 13 at a friend’s house in Waverly after a night of drinking alcohol and smoking K2 at a party in Lincoln, Chief Deputy Jeff Bliemeister said.
“We had no clue. Nothing. No signals,” Billy's father, Steve, said Friday.
Steve Tucker believes his son is the first person to die in Nebraska of a synthetic marijuana overdose.
Billy Tucker had a couple of beers at the party and took several hits of synthetic marijuana but seemed normal, Steve Tucker said he's been told.
“He was fine, coherent, ate his sandwich.”
Then he went to sleep at a friend’s house in Waverly and never woke up. Steve Tucker believes his son took one last hit, and that’s probably what killed him.
Deputies found a package of “Scooby Snax Potpourri” and a pipe in Billy's pocket. His father, who is combing through his son’s Facebook profile now that he has Billy’s cellphone back from investigators, said his son probably bought the K2, and it wasn’t his first time.
People can legally buy the potpourri, which is marketed as aromatherapy.
State lawmakers have outlawed other synthetic marijuana compounds, which also fall under the umbrella name K2, but manufacturers can tweak the chemical makeup of their products to make them legal again.
But it is illegal to smoke it, Bliemeister said.
Deputies are worried about how manufacturers are marketing the product. In the case of “Scooby Snax,” they use the cartoon character Scooby-Doo.
“It’s extremely concerning to law enforcement,” Bliemeister said. “We want to make it clear, to parents and to children … it is extremely dangerous.”
Steve Tucker wants to make sure it's clear, so other parents don’t have to mourn the deaths of their children.
He said he's researching synthetic marijuana, working with law enforcement. He wants his son’s death to spur lawmakers to outlaw this stuff, but that takes time, and time could mean another teenager dies.
“We know there are other kids in the community doing it,” Tucker said. “You can’t sit on it; otherwise we’re going to have another funeral."
Billy Tucker was on diversion after taking his girlfriend’s Adderall pills in the spring, his father said. He had to stay clean for six months and submit to drug tests for before prosecutors dismissed the drug charges.
But synthetic marijuana doesn’t show up on a typical drug test.
During the investigation, deputies discovered that Kevin McCulley, 25, 4111 Normal Blvd., bought some of the alcohol Tucker and his friends drank at the party in Lincoln. McCulley is on federal probation until 2016 after pleading guilty to having crack cocaine with plans to sell it.
In 2007, court records show, U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom sentenced him to five years in prison and four years on probation.
Urbom included an order in the probation that McCulley not buy, drink or give anyone any alcohol.
In the wake of Billy Tucker's death, deputies cited McCulley on suspicion of selling alcohol to a minor, Bliemeister said.
When investigators and federal probation officers searched his house, which is where Tucker and his friends went to party, they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. McCulley pleaded guilty to having both, and a Lancaster County Court judge fined him a total of $450.
Prosecutors haven’t yet charged him for allegedly getting alcohol for minors.