crimesider

Charges coming in cyanide poisoning death of Texas man?

Christopher Erick Personal photo

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas - A grand jury is hearing evidence Wednesday to decide whether criminal charges are warranted in the case of a 23-year-old Texas man who died of cyanide poisoning nearly two years ago.

Christopher Erick was found dead in his grandmother's house about 30 miles from Dallas in Midlothian, where he was living at the time, on November 10, 2012. Authorities initially said he died of natural causes. An autopsy found that he had two heart attacks just before his death.

But about a month later, at his mother's insistence, the medical examiner tested a vial of Erick's blood and found that he had lethal amounts of cyanide in his system. His cause of death was changed to cyanide toxicity and the manner of death was changed to undetermined.

Kim Smith, Erick's mother, told 48 Hours' Crimesider on Tuesday that the Midlothian Police Department did not launch an investigation into her son's death, even after the cause was changed to cyanide poisoning. She said authorities told her that they believed he committed suicide.

Erick had struggled with an addiction to Adderall, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat ADHD, and had issues with depression, according to Smith, who said that at one point, her son did make statements that he wanted to die. Smith said she tried to get help for her son and wanted him to move into a rehab facility, but his grandmother was against it and insisted that he move in with her.

Smith said that once her son moved in with his grandmother - the mother of Smith's ex-husband - her son became withdrawn and confused.

Smith told Crimesider she is convinced her son didn't commit suicide. She thinks he was murdered and launched a website, a Facebook page and a Change.org petition to push for an investigation.

"The police made me feel crazy," Smith told Crimesider. "Finally, last week, I got a letter from the district attorney that he was taking it to a grand jury to let them decide."

Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson did not immediately return a call for comment on Tuesday. A woman who answered the phone at his office did confirm that a grand jury was being convened Wednesday to consider the case.

Cmdr. Cody McKinney, of the Midlothian Police Department, also confirmed to Crimesider that the grand jury was being convened. McKinney declined to discuss any details of the case, citing grand jury rules and regulations.

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    Stephanie Slifer covers crime and justice for CBSNews.com.

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