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Coroner: Deerhake did not die from drugs

Alex Green • Jun 7, 2014 at 4:38 PM


A community was devastated when it lost Chris Deerhake on Nov. 10, 2013.

The death was tragic for several reasons, Danbury Township police said, the first being Deerhake was just 22 years old.

Danbury Township police Chief Michael Meisler and his twin, Detective Mark Meisler, have a unique relationship with their 5,000 or so residents who, for the most part, stay safe and abide the law.

So, along with the many community members who knew Deerhake — an avid outdoorsman with an infectious positive attitude — the Meislers were also emotionally affected when they learned of his death.

"It hit the community pretty hard," Mark said. "As a whole we know most people (in Danbury Township). So do the young people and locals. It hit us all hard."

Contrary to speculation at the time and months following, Ottawa County Coroner Daniel Cadigan recently determined Deerhake died of cardiomyopathy: a weakening of the heart muscle.

Attendees of the party Deerhake attended the night of his death said drugs were being passed around as people drank, leading many people to believe Deerhake died from the combination.

The toxicology report revealed Deerhake had non-toxic levels of alcohol and Oxycodone in his system that night, but Cadigan said the substances were not a contributing factor.

It makes the death no easier to comprehend for police, friends and family, however.

And even though Deerhake did not die from the substances that night, according to Cadigan, the drugs were present and it can still serve as an important lesson for kids and young adults, police said.

"Both (alcohol and prescription drugs) slow down the central nervous system," Mark said. "They both act in the same way. Someone who takes both is going to have issues with breathing, and going to slow down brain function. Mainly their breathing slows down (significantly)."

But police don't want a stigma attached to Deerhake, who by all accounts was a commendable person.

Michael joined his brother in somberly reflecting on Deerhake's death.

"It was a tragic instance," Michael said. "It not only affected a good family, it affected our peninsula, and many people."

November 2013 was a difficult month for the Meisler's and the township they serve.

They witnessed two more unexpected deaths later that month when Marblehead resident George Dehil, 76, was killed in a house fire, and Jeffery Sloan, 43, was killed in a one-vehicle car crash.

The Meisler's have since repeatedly said it was the most tragic month in the township's recent history.

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