After a millionaire is poisoned with eye drops, his death is ruled a homicide. Did this inspire a copycat crime?
Lana and Steve Clayton had been married for five years, and were living in Lake Wylie, S.C. According to Steve's family they had a loving marriage.
Mount Vernon Replica
The Clayton's lived on waterfront property in this home, modeled after President George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.
A Horrifying Discovery
On Saturday July 21, 2018, Lana Clayton says she walked inside after mowing the lawn and discovered her husband unresponsive at the bottom of these stairs.
Leading up to Steve's Death
Lana said Steve had been ill and bedridden with vertigo for three days.
What Killed Steve Clayton?
Lana wondered if Steve had fallen down the stairs, but the coroner saw no signs of a fall and ruled it a natural death resulting from a possible heart attack.
Steve's nephew, Nick French, came to the scene on the day Steve died. Nick — a police officer in a nearby town — did a walkthrough of the house and found it odd that Steve's bed was soaked with urine.
Steve's nephews, Nick French and Kris Phagan, sensed something was not right. Steve's cell phone was also missing.
The morning after Steve's death, neighbors told Steve's nephews they watched Lana setting a fire in the backyard fire pit. Kris believes this is where Steve's will was destroyed.
A Call To The Coroner
When Steve's family learned Lana had requested a cremation, they immediately called the coroner's office. They say if they hadn't requested an autopsy and toxicology report they may have never discovered the truth about Steve's death.
A Strange Substance
The toxicology report revealed there was an extremely large amount of tetrahydrozoline in Steve's blood. Tetrahydrozoline, known as THZ, is a chemical found in many over-the-counter eye drops. The coroner ruled this was not a natural death.
Pictured is toxicologist Demi Garvin, left, and Coroner Sabrina Gast.
Lana's Eye Drop Knowledge
On August 29, 2018, a little over a month after Steve's death, Lana was interviewed by the York County coroner. When the coroner brought up THZ, Lana knew right away this was a chemical in Visine.
Clues At The Mansion
Investigators found Visine in the Clayton home. During her interview, Lana said Steve liked to put Visine in his coffee to help him go to the bathroom. She said he had been doing it for years, a statement that seemed very odd to the coroner.
A Surprising Admission
Lana returned home later that day where investigators say she made a stunning admission: she confessed to a York County sheriff's detective that she had put Visine in Steve's water. She even said she wanted him to suffer. She was arrested the following day.
A Copycat Case?
Just 12 miles from the Clayton's home and a few weeks after Lana's arrest, Stacy Hunsucker, a young mother of two died of what investigators said appeared to be cardiac arrest.
A Happy Couple?
Stacy and Josh Hunsucker had been married for 8 years. Stacy was a preschool teacher and Josh a flight paramedic. When Stacy's mother learned that Josh had quickly moved on with a girlfriend, she became suspicious.
A Mother's Hunch
Stacy's mother contacted the North Carolina Department of Insurance two days after Stacy died after learning Josh had applied to collect approximately $250,000 in life insurance proceeds on Stacy's life.
THZ in Stacy's Blood
Investigators in North Carolina learned Stacy was an organ donor and a vial of blood had been collected and stored before she was cremated. That blood was sent out for a toxicology screening where a large amount of THZ was discovered
Arrested and Charged
On December 19, 2019, Josh Hunsucker was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife Stacy. Hunsucker is awaiting a trial date. His attorney says his client is innocent and the allegations will be strenuously opposed.
A Dangerous Poison
The coroner and toxicologist "48 Hours" interviewed agree screening for THZ should be a routine part of a toxicology test.
Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Visine, said in a statement:
"We're deeply saddened to learn of this news and are devastated that anyone would use our product for such an abhorrent act. Using tetrahydrozoline (active ingredient in Visine) on the surface of the eye has been demonstrated to be safe for self-use for more than 50 years. Visine is clearly labeled for external use only and should never be swallowed.