Howell Committed Suicide, LA Coroner Rules

by Arkansas Business staff  on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2003 1:37 pm  

M. David Howell Jr. of Little Rock committed suicide in a Beverly Hills hotel room in October, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office announced Tuesday.

The coroner's office finally released a cause of death — an overdose of the painkiller hydrocodone — on Monday. But it wasn't until Tuesday that the suicide ruling was released.

Howell, a former banker, was found dead in his room in the luxurious Peninsula Hotel on Oct. 23, a week after the Arkansas Securities Department ordered him to cease and desist from selling unregistered promissory notes carrying annual interest rates as high as 50 percent. In the months since his death, scores of investors in Arkansas and Tennessee have filed probate claims and lawsuits claiming that Howell owed them tens of millions of dollars.

The suicide ruling, as well as revelations of cocaine and prescription drug abuse, could impact insurance policies on Howell's life. Little Rock businessman Robert Vogel, one of Howell's investors, has filed a lawsuit in which he asserts that Howell bought three life insurance policies worth some $17 million in the fall of 2000.

Hydrocodone is a prescription painkiller similar to codeine and marketed under the brand names Vicodin and Lortab. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has labeled it a "drug or chemical of concern" because of "escalating" abuse and street availability.

Howell spent several days in the Betty Ford Center at Rancho Mirage, Calif., and was released on Oct. 19. On Oct. 21, he checked into the Peninsula.

Hydrocodone was not among the prescription drugs found in Howell's hotel room and listed on the coroner's report. However, a number of other prescription medications were listed: Depakote, a treatment for epilepsy and the manic episodes associated with bipolar depression; Paxil, an antidepressant; Viagra, a treatment for impotence; Maxzide, a diuretic used in the treatment of high blood pressure; Claritin, an antihistamine; Bextra, an arthritis treatment; Valtrex, a preventive treatment for genital herpes, cold sores and shingles; and amoxycillin, a common antibiotic.



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