Mystery? Did visine kill local woman?

Police probe possible prank-related death

Eye drops cannot possibly be responsible for the 2008 death of a Fort Ann woman, a Granville attorney said Friday. 

Ron Daigle said research he had done showed the amount of such a substance needed to be harmful would have to be 50-60 drops for an infant, not the four or five drops his client used on an adult.

“I don’t think this caused her death,” he said.

Marceline “Marcie” Jones, 49, died Nov. 2 after the Oct. 31 incident where an acquaintance put Visine into her drink. Jones was the manager of the floral department of the Granville location of Price Chopper until her death.

Police are awaiting toxicology test results that could show what factor, if any, the eye drops played in Jones’ death. Those results are expected to take several weeks to be completed.

An autopsy at the time of her death showed Jones died of unspecified natural causes.

The as yet unnamed woman came forward and admitted to spiking the drink with Visine following a workplace dispute involving another party with knowledge of the event.

Daigle said Jones was “a sweetheart” who was well liked by her coworkers and was a friend of his client’s.

He said they exchanged birthday gifts and were good friends.

“Our heart goes out to the family and my client feels terrible about this,” he said. 

The subject of the investigation by New York State Police is a woman who worked with Jones at Price Chopper. She hired Daigle as an attorney after learning police had begun looking into the matter.

The woman, who was not named by police because she had yet to be charged, believed the eye drops would cause diarrhea and discomfort to Jones after seeing a scene in a movie, Daigle said.

Several co-workers were playing similar pranks with food and drinks during a shift on Halloween when his client put the substance into Jones’ drink. It is not clear if Visine was put into any other food or beverages.

A State Police expert was reviewing the results of an autopsy done at the time of Jones’ death and Daigle said he had no doubt they would do a thorough job which would reveal that the action his client took did not contribute to Marcie Jones’ death. Jones also had a history of medical problems.

Investigators are trying to determine if criminal charges are warranted in the incident.

Daigle said he could not speculate about what charges his client might face, but said there were cases of others being charged with misdemeanors for putting Visine into drinks.

According to the Urban Legend authority website the tale of a ‘Visine Mickey Finn’ has been around for decades.

A Mickey Finn is a term used to describe a drink that has been tampered with, usually for the purpose of incapacitating the drinker.

This particular legend puts forth that a few drops of the product will cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort and allegedly is used by cocktail waitresses to rid themselves of problem bar customers.

A September 2002 episode of the television show ‘CSI’ depicts a waitress who spikes the drink of a customer with the intension of making him sick, only to have fatal results when the Visine reacts in the stomach with chocolate. 

The actual results of ingestion of the active ingredient in the drops, Tetrahydrozoline HCL, can cause, according to the National Institute of Medicine website: a lowering of the body temperature to dangerous levels; making breathing difficult or stopping it completely; blurring vision; vomiting and headache; elevating and then dropping of blood pressure; seizures or tremors and sending the person who consumes it into a coma.

One of the effects not listed is the diarrhea of the legend.

The site does not specify at what level or concentration the affects occur.

Numerous reports also show serious consequences when children ingest the drops, including nearly fatal incidents.

The warning issued on the Pfizer webpage for the product said: “Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”

According to published media reports from across the country Visine or similar eye drop products have lead to a number of medical incidents which were followed by charges. In several cases charges such as assault have been brought against pranksters for spiking drinks.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright could not be reached for comment about the investigation.