Tanner Barton: Case officially closed for teen who unexpectedly collapsed and died at friend’s house after new evidence surfaces

After a six-year investigation into the death of an Indiana teenager who passed away in 2012, the Howard County Medical Examiner determined the teen died accidentally. In turn, no charges are warranted in the case.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday that in light of information uncovered through investigations, a further autopsy review by Dr. Steve Seele, cellphone forensics testing by Laura Pettler & Associates (LPA) and additional evidence uncovered by Atlanta’s Cold Case Investigative Research Institute (CCRI), 19-year-old Tanner Barton’s death case has been officially closed and listed as accidental.


Posted by Howard County Sheriff's Department on Friday, April 27, 2018


Initially, detectives were unaware of the teen’s Adderall use. He didn’t have a prescription to the medication nor did he have a medical condition that would require use of the drug. Cellphone analysis by the LPA team, however, was turned over to detectives, which indicated Tanner used the medication as a way to stay up late and study for a college exam. At the time of his death, Tanner was a freshman at Marian University in Indianapolis.

Dr. Steve Steele, Howard County’s newly elected coroner, determined that an an enlarged heart and Adderall use were the contributing factors to Tanner’s death.Tanner’s enlarged heart in particular, was a “significant issue.”

Steel also submitted Tanner’s autopsy for an independent review to forensic pathologist Dr. Thomas J. Sozio of the Central Indiana Forensic Associates. Sozio also noted Tanner’s enlarged heart and wrote that the teen was also considered morbidly obese with a short neck.

Tanner unexpectedly collapsed at a friend’s house in Kokomo in April 2012, and given his weight, enlarged heart, and neck, he fainted into a position that caused positional asphyxia, which obstructed his respiration. Tanner also had marijuana and alcohol in his system at the time of his death, which can increase the risk of positional asphyxia, especially in those who are considered obese.

“Morbid obesity can predispose one to positional asphyxia, especially when combined with drug and alcohol use,” the sheriff’s department statement read. “Samples submitted to the lab indicated the presence of alcohol and marijuana in Tanner’s system at the time of his death.  The comprehensive drug panel used at the lab covered a wide range of substances to include the drug Ketamine.

Toxicology reports show that Tanner tested negative for Adderall for in his system. However, according to a report published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Adderall can cause potential heart and cardiovascular system issues at a “1.8-fold increase” when used excessively. It’s unclear how long Tanner used Adderall, but the studies indicate that despite the drug not being in his system at the time of death, previous use may have led up to medical issues that contributed his death.

Using Adderall without a prescription is not uncommon among college students. Known as the “smart drug” or “study pill,” students take the medication, generally prescribed for people diagnosed with ADHD, to help them handle the stress that comes along with college life, including studying for exams and tests.

READ More: Newly obtained documents reveal teen Tanner Barton tested negative for ketamine after mysterious death

Tanner also tested negative for Ketamine, a drug his mother, Michele Barton, felt the teen was given at his friend’s house which ultimately caused his death.

Michele Barton indicated that she disagreed with the findings and will continue to seek answers.

[Feature Photo: Tanner Barton/Handout]