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Family: Infection led to death of alleged courthouse shooter

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DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The family of the man who allegedly shot a prosecutor and another man last month at the Cook County Courthouse says he apparently died because a common bacterial infection triggered a rare blood disorder.

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St. Louis County Medical Examiner Thomas Uncini confirmed to the Duluth News Tribune Saturday (http://bit.ly/AinmI4 ) that he spoke with the family about the cause of death. However, he said he was unwilling to say more publicly for now because he was awaiting one more test result before releasing a final autopsy report.

Daniel Schlienz's sister, Bev Wolke, said Uncini provided the information about how Schlienz died.

Schlienz, 42, was being held on charges that he tried to kill Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell and Gregory Thompson, of Grand Marais. The shootings happened shortly after he was convicted on several counts of criminal sexual conduct. Both victims left the hospital within a few days, but Schlienz fell ill in in the St. Louis County Jail and died Dec. 27.

Schlienz's family was initially told he died from disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, an often-fatal disorder that causes the proteins that control blood clotting to become abnormally active and eventually consumes the body's blood platelets, causing excessive bleeding.

But there's always an underlying cause of DIC. Wolke said Uncini told her it was a common bacterial infection, Streptococcus pneumonia.

If that's accurate, then there may have been no way to prevent Schlienz's death, said Dr. Howard Mell, spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. Mell said that particular bacterium is common in the nose and upper airways in even healthy people. Once Schlienz developed DIC from the infection, Mell said, his fate probably was sealed.

"It can develop quite rapidly before there's really a sign or symptom and before you can intervene," Mell said.

Wolke said Schlienz was vulnerable to infections because he was missing most of his spleen due to an accident about 20 years ago. She also still questions whether health personnel at the St. Louis County Jail gave him adequate medical care after he developed a severe cough.

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said he still believes his staff acted appropriately, but he'll wait for the medical examiner's report.

___

Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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