Cocaine use, message of woman found near Waco point to drug link
Authorities are continuing to investigate how a 21-year-old Southern Methodist University student ended up dead in a small town near Waco after she apparently went on a drug binge and overdosed.
Toxicology reports are pending for Meaghan Bosch, 21, who was reported missing Friday in Dallas and found dead Monday under a blanket on the floor of a portable toilet in Hewitt, 100 miles south of Dallas.
Police there have asked the Texas Rangers to assist them with the case, which is not uncommon in small jurisdictions that do not routinely investigate deaths.
Authorities in Dallas say there is no evidence of foul play, but Capt. Tuck Saunders with the Hewitt police, now the primary agency investigating her death, said Wednesday they have drawn no conclusions and are waiting for the medical examiner's ruling.
"At this time, we're looking at all the facts," the captain said. "Based on the facts that we get, we'll file charges that fit the crime."
Police had said that Ms. Bosch was last heard from Thursday, when she text-messaged an ex-boyfriend that she was with a drug dealer. Her family said she had recently begun using cocaine and had a history of depression.
On Wednesday, Lt. Robert Hinton, commander of the Dallas missing persons squad, said that friends told them they received text messages from Ms. Bosch as late as Saturday – a day after Ms. Bosch's parents reported her missing Friday.
While the lieutenant would not elaborate on the content of the messages, "she was not alleging that she was in any criminal danger," he said.
"Either way this goes, this will be tied to drugs," he added.
Police won't say who they think put Ms. Bosch in the portable toilet in Hewitt, where she was found by construction workers about 10 a.m. Monday. However, based on the new information about the Saturday text messages, they believe she ended up there between Saturday and Monday morning.
Ms. Bosch had to be identified through fingerprints because of decomposition, authorities said.
Police have questioned her current and former boyfriends, as well as a man she had lunch with Thursday who police say is a drug dealer.
Theories about what happened to Ms. Bosch range from whether she was abandoned in Hewitt by whoever was with her when she overdosed, to whether someone may have directly caused her death. Police do not know why her body ended up in the Waco area.
"A terrible crime has been committed against her, her family, and friends," her father, Joseph Bosch, said in a statement Wednesday. "The police are working very hard on the case, and we are confident that they will bring the people responsible to justice."
Depending on whether the medical examiner rules her death an accidental overdose or homicide, charges could range from tampering with a corpse, a misdemeanor, to murder, police said.
SMU officials say they know drugs can be tempting for college students and have taken adequate steps to help those who need help with such problems.
"I don't know where other universities stand on this, but from my view, at SMU, we want our campus community to know when someone dies from a drug- or alcohol-related cause so that students will know what's going on and won't tolerate their peers using those substances," said John Sanger, SMU's director of alcohol and drug abuse prevention.
Experts say schools can be reticent to talk about such deaths, and there is so little data on college drug overdoses that it is difficult to tell whether SMU has had more than its statistical share of deaths.
"College and universities do not spend the money to adequately survey alcohol and drug problems on their campuses and thus, administrators and health officials do not know the extent of the problem," said Carol Boyd, a University of Michigan researcher who is a nationally recognized expert on substance abuse on campuses.
"Typically, they respond after a tragedy... not proactively," she said. "I think that we are all, as a society, reluctant to acknowledge the extent of alcohol and drug problems on our college campuses, and, of course, administrators worry about the public's perception as well."
The death of only one SMU student, Jacob Stiles, has been officially confirmed as drug overdose in recent months. Tests showed that the 20-year-old sophomore economics and psychology major from Naperville, Ill., overdosed on a mixture of cocaine, alcohol and the synthetic opiate fentanyl.
SMU spokesman Kent Best said if Ms. Bosch's death is confirmed as an overdose, it would be the first time he could recall two SMU students dying from overdoses within five months. "I don't know that we have had a case like this," he said.
"It doesn't change the fact that anytime you lose a student, it shakes the university to a large extent and leaves you with the feeling that this just shouldn't happen to young people, regardless of the cause of death," he added. "We don't keep our head in the sand relating to drug or alcohol abuse."
After Mr. Stiles' death, the campus began a program called "Because I Care," aimed at getting students to intervene on behalf of their friends who abuse drugs and alcohol. Officials planned to expand the program, which was in pilot stage this semester, campus-wide next fall.
"Students know drugs are bad; they've been taught that since they were young," Mr. Sanger said. "But we found that students didn't know how to talk to each other, how to intervene, when they saw someone in trouble."
Another SMU student, freshman Jordan Crist, 19, also from Illinois, was found unconscious in an SMU dorm room May 2 and died at a local hospital. The medical examiner also has yet to rule on his death, but his family believes he died from complications from diabetes insipidus, or water diabetes, which he has had since he was a toddler.
Southern Methodist University is coping with its third death in less than six months after a student’s body was found this week in a town outside Waco, Texas. While toxicology reports are still pending, evidence suggests the death resulted from an overdose, which would make it the second in recent memory there involving drugs.
Meaghan Bosch, 21, a junior English major, was found over 100 miles from Dallas, where SMU is located, in the small town of Hewitt. Construction workers discovered her on the floor of a portable toilet there on Monday morning, covered in a blanket, according to reports. Bosch’s parents released statements to the press describing a recent change in her behavior, recurring depression and a newly formed cocaine habit. Police are not clear how exactly Bosch ended up in Hewitt.
Bosch’s death came just two weeks after another student was found unconscious in a dorm room and later died. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of that death, which may have been related to a form of diabetes. The third student died of a drug overdose in December.
The most recent death occurred in the week between the end of finals and commencement this Saturday, which means that since most non-graduating students had already left, Bosch’s death may have had less impact on campus than it otherwise would have. There has been relatively little activity regarding Bosch’s death on Facebook, where students often create groups to memorialize recently lost classmates.
But at least one frequent commentator on SMU affairs — the so-called “Phantom Professor,” who blogs anonymously but is known to be a former writing instructor at the university — weighed in this week. “What a sick, sick way for a young life to end,” she wrote on Tuesday. “She lived one block from me in a complex of condo-apartments that on the outside looks posh and security-protected but that I have always heard is a haven of burglaries, drunken parties, drug dealing and other nefarious activities.”
As expected, the deaths have raised the perennial issues of alcohol and substance abuse on college campuses, and whether universities are doing enough to proactively combat binge drinking and drug use. Insofar as drug use is a problem among youth, of course, it’s one every college has to deal with.
The university is “slightly below” the national average in most categories of the Core Institute survey given out to its students, according to John Sanger of SMU’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention — including use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opiates and other drugs. But that hasn’t stopped the university from gaining a reputation — earned or not — for having more than its share of wealthy students who focus on partying in various forms.
Ned Henry, a graduate student at SMU who is not currently on campus, said he believes students’ easy access to “disposable money” and a lack of “concern for the rules” have partially contributed to the campus culture. “SMU doesn’t seem to have just a party school image, but a ‘who-cares’ image,” he said. “It’s almost kind of like you feel untouchable.”
William Finnin, the university’s chaplain, said he believed the problem was endemic to a particular strain in youth culture that often starts before students enter college. “They come in streetwise and sometimes experienced from high school,” he said. “It has to do with that sometimes lethal combination of ample resources” and time — “there’s so much disposable time.”
Another factor is location. “You can get drugs in Dallas for two bucks a hit,” Finnin said of the availability of heroin — although, he said, cocaine is the “drug of choice” at SMU.
Sanger said the university had received a number of calls this week asking about drug use in the surrounding areas and expressing concern over “our students’ possible exposure to the criminal element.”
“Certainly there are some issues having to do with safety and security,” he said. “We really won’t know how we might make SMU a safer environment. We are in the middle of a big city.”
But Southern Methodist is fighting back — both against the reputation and against the drug problem in its student body, one, as Sanger emphasized, that exists on every campus. Since the death of Jacob Stiles in December at a fraternity house, the university has created programs or boosted existing initiatives. Some examples:
Already, new students are required to complete an online course called AlcoholEdu.
That Bosch’s death is not the first in recent memory at Southern Methodist hasn’t stopped it from having a particular resonance, whether because of how her body was found and the state it was in, or the sheer occurrence of two deaths in a single month.
Finnin also believes the Bosch family’s reaction was unique. “Beside the components that are under investigation, it’s different in the sense that her family has been incredibly willing to share their insights about some of the issues she was dealing with. They’re the first ones who noted that she had an issue with chemicals. That is refreshing to me, because so often we encounter strident denial on the part of loved ones who have incredible difficulty in dealing with the reality of their loved ones’ use of chemicals.”
Henry said that from his vantage point as a graduate student somewhat removed from the college scene, there was a sense of disbelief about Bosch’s death because of the sheer number of tragedies at the university recently. But the reputation will always be there.
“It would be truly unreal if we were talking about Harvard,” Henry said, implying that at certain prestigious schools the deaths would be seen as an exception rather than the rule. “‘This is crazy but it’s Harvard.’ Well, this is crazy, and it’s SMU. It’s not actually that surprising.”
In general, faculty and administrators in higher education are not trained to recognize mental health problems. Even if they are trained, there are frequently no reasonably priced outlets to refer students for assistance. Mental health is typically not covered in basic medical insurance plans for students. Those needing help often go without care because they simply cannot afford the out of pocket costs for therapy or medication.
Mental health issues also extend into the families of married students. Too often I find that we, as a society, still shun or ignore people with mental problems. Statistics show that at anyone time up to a third of our population needs mental health intervention. Divorces, deaths, foreign wars, terminal illness, etc. put a tremendous amount of stress on individuals and their families. There are many people crying out for help, but there are too few listening.
As with any other health issues, our students need insurance. The federal government’s response is health savings accounts. This is no solution for financially struggling students (for most of the populations also). Anything short of voluntary universal health insurance will leave college students with no real safety net of physical or mental health protection. Preventable events like this will continue at colleges and universities around our great country.
12:00 AM CST on Sunday, December 21, 2008Top of page Article
The women came to his poker room near the Southern Methodist University campus – sometimes with their boyfriends, sometimes by themselves.
Many of them found the atmosphere at his illicit poker games enticing, said James McDaniel, a self-described professional poker player known for hosting Texas Hold 'Em games four nights a week.
Authorities say Mr. McDaniel preyed on at least four of these women, maybe many more, offering them free drugs and alcohol. But , prosecutors say he tricked the women with ground-up depressants instead of lines of cocaine, or slipped the date-rape drug GHB into their drinks.
When they woke up, they believed they had been raped.
Federal prosecutors have asked the women, most of them former SMU students, to testify anonymously at Mr. McDaniel's trial. They say he caused the 2007 death of Meaghan Bosch, the 21-year-old SMU student from McKinney whose fatal overdose prompted serious introspection at the university about students' abuse of drugs.
Ms. Bosch had cocaine, methamphetamine and the addictive pain pill and respiratory depressant oxycodone in her system when she died – the same drugs Mr. McDaniel is accused of supplying to her. Authorities say he also was a drug pipeline for other SMU students.
"What they want to do is get me into a courtroom and paint me as this monster," Mr. McDaniel said last week in a phone interview from the Seagoville federal prison. He said he didn't sell drugs, had nothing to do with Ms. Bosch's death, and never committed sexual assault.
He has pleaded not guilty to federal charges, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and running a drug distribution network that resulted in a death.
U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said prosecutors "have a strong desire to achieve justice for Meaghan." But he declined to elaborate on the case.
Mr. McDaniel, who looks more youthful than his 48 years, said he enjoyed partying with a younger, faster crowd.
The tournaments at his loft at Mockingbird Station, and later at a nearby duplex on Winton Street, attracted students – mostly men and most of them in fraternities – from nearby SMU, among others. And the men often brought along their girlfriends.
"In that crowd, you've always got the groupies, people who hang on, hang around because of the celebrities that are there, the money that is there," he said, declining to name anyone who went to his games.
It was through this network that Mr. McDaniel met Ms. Bosch, though it's unclear how many in the young crowd, including Ms. Bosch, knew that he was a convicted killer.
In 1979, Mr. McDaniel was convicted of killing James Burt Horan, a 33-year-old former Dallas police officer who had been working as a private investigator. He was found Aug. 23, 1978, shot multiple times in his Oak Lawn townhouse.
Police linked Mr. McDaniel, then 18, to the slaying after they found the ex-officer's car and belongings at Mr. McDaniel's Oak Cliff apartment.
At the time, Mr. McDaniel was publicly identified as a suspect in the June 14, 1978, slaying of John Miller, a 29-year-old Parkland Memorial Hospital physician found in his car on Lemmon Avenue.
Mr. McDaniel was also questioned about the death of an 8-year-old boy found in Mr. McDaniel's closet in October 1978 in Joliet, Ill. Police believe Mr. McDaniel fled to Joliet after he was indicted in Dallas for Mr. Horan's death. The boy had been missing for two days when a relative of Mr. McDaniel found the youth, whose body bore what appeared to be teeth marks, inside the closet.
Mr. McDaniel was never charged in those two cases, and he has denied any involvement in them. He would not comment on Mr. Horan's death, but was convicted of the murder and served 22 years in prison. He was paroled in 2001 and returned to his hometown of Dallas.
Mr. McDaniel said he used cocaine after he was released from prison, and he admitted doing drugs with Ms. Bosch. But he said he did not give her any drugs around the time of her disappearance.
"I'm not an angel in all this," he said. "I'm not saying I didn't do some things that I shouldn't be doing."
Ms. Bosch's parents, who declined to be interviewed for this story, have said that she struggled with drug use.
Friends and family told police that she had dinner with Mr. McDaniel on Thursday, May 10, 2007. They reported her missing the next day.
Mr. McDaniel previously has admitted going to dinner with Ms. Bosch at an On the Border, but he now maintains the last time he saw her was later at his duplex on Winton Street on Thursday evening. He said she was in the company of his neighbor.
After the three of them talked for a while, Mr. McDaniel said, he left them standing in front of the duplex. He said he drove to a poker game in Addison and never saw Ms. Bosch again.
That neighbor told police a different version. He said that he encountered Ms. Bosch with Mr. McDaniel that evening and that Mr. McDaniel introduced her as "Meg."
The neighbor said he saw Ms. Bosch again the next day on Mr. McDaniel's bed, semi-conscious from drug use. He told police he didn't call 911 because he feared Mr. McDaniel, who had a shotgun in the house.
He also told police that Mr. McDaniel urged him to pretend he did not know Mr. McDaniel if questioned by police.
Mr. McDaniel denied the neighbor's account and said by Friday he was playing poker at Winstar and Choctaw casinos in Oklahoma. When asked if he had an alibi, he said he is on surveillance video. But he could not recall which room he stayed in and said no one accompanied him on the trips.
As authorities searched for Ms. Bosch, Mr. McDaniel met with missing persons detectives and told them about the dinner. He denied having any other knowledge of her disappearance.
"Let's just be honest – if I had known at that point that Meaghan was dead, there is no way in God's green Earth I would have walked into the Dallas police station for that interview," he told The Dallas Morning News. "I spent 22 years in prison. There's no way I'm walking in there."
Third SMU drug death
Ms. Bosch had been missing for four days when her body was found May 14, 2007, inside a portable toilet near Waco. Her death followed two other fatal overdoses – one less than two weeks prior and another in December 2006 – by SMU students, prompting criticism that the university was ignoring a severe drug problem.
Since then, SMU officials have implemented reforms recommended by a Substance Abuse Prevention task force, including efforts to encourage students to seek help for addiction, extending hours of student activity centers and improving the tracking of students who show signs of stress.
Lori White, SMU's vice president for student affairs, said that the mandatory student orientation program includes lessons on substance abuse and campus safety.
"I think we do a very good job educating students about making good decisions, about the resources available to them," said Dr. White, who added that some students ignore the advice. "At that age, regardless of our best efforts, sometimes they do things we would rather them not do."
Dr. White, who came to SMU after Ms. Bosch's death, said that she was not aware that federal authorities had found former students who told authorities that they were sexually assaulted by Mr. McDaniel.
She said she would ask campus police what they know about the investigation. SMU Police Chief Richard Shafer declined to talk to The News about the federal case against Mr. McDaniel but added "we certainly would cooperate with them if they would ask us to."
But for some, the school is still in denial.
Spanish professor George Henson, who taught Ms. Bosch, said the fact that federal authorities say they have found more alleged victims who say they were lured by the promise of illicit substances "underscores just how deeply rooted the drug problem is at SMU."
"I think it's incumbent on SMU to ask some very tough questions," he said. "The problem is, they don't want to know the answers."
Even before Ms. Bosch's death, Mr. McDaniel was a suspect in a 2005 date-rape. Police used that case to obtain a warrant for his arrest after her body was found.
On May 17, 2007, police raided Mr. McDaniel's duplex and found a shotgun, a camera and tripod, and videos of Mr. McDaniel having sex with what appeared to be drugged women. Ms. Bosch does not appear on those videos.
Authorities caught up with Mr. McDaniel on May 23 at the University Park apartment of an SMU student and friend. They found Mr. McDaniel passed out, apparently from an attempted suicide by overdose.
He was arrested on the 2005 sex assault charge, but that case was eventually dropped, police say, because that victim left the area. But by then, Dallas police had publicly urged any other victims to come forward, and they investigated three more sexual assaults probably related to Mr. McDaniel.
Dallas police Lt. Sally Lannom, who supervises sex assaults cases, said that investigators believed that in all four cases, the women had been drugged, but "we didn't have enough to make cases."
Mr. McDaniel has not been charged with murder. Authorities pursued a federal case where, if convicted, he faces 20 years to life on the charge that he caused Ms. Bosch's death, and an additional 25 years if convicted on gun charges.
His friend Linda Tran, who often accompanied him on poker trips to casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma, said she doesn't believe he's capable of hurting anyone. "As far as I know, he was a great guy," she said.
Ms. Tran, now living in Las Vegas and working as a poker dealer, said she knew Mr. McDaniel occasionally partied with a younger crowd, but "he's not the kind of guy who is going to take advantage of girls." She said she never saw him using or dealing drugs.
Mr. McDaniel, awaiting a February trial, said he's being used as a scapegoat by authorities who can't pin murder on him and have opted for what he said is a weak federal case.
"In their push to get someone to pay for what's going on at SMU, and setting me up as the take-all candidate, they have pushed the envelope," he said.
Staff writer Tanya Eiserer contributed to this report.
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