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LA coroner technician's death may be linked to poisoning

The L.A. Department of Coroner is seen in this undated file photo.

April 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Authorities are looking into the death of a seemingly healthy 61-year-old L.A. Department coroner technician.

Michael Cormier was suddenly stricken with an illness at his home in the North Hollywood last Friday. He was rushed to hospital and later died, but doctors aren't sure what killed him.

Neighbor Marlene Chamberlain says officers seized evidence from Cormier's home. According to investigators, suspicions surrounding Cormier's death were raised by doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The LAPD and the county coroner say there are questions whether Cormier may have ingested poison, possibly arsenic. LAPD says there was no obvious sign that Cormier died of natural causes.

"If the attending doctor or physician is not willing to sign off on the death certificate, then it becomes an investigation to determine the actual cause of death," said LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman.

Neighbors, including one who didn't want to be identified, were shocked at the sudden death.

"He seemed to be in great shape, he was always out doing yard work wearing his bandana, barbecuing outside all the time," he said.

But last Friday night, Chamberlain said she heard the sounds of a man who was violently ill.

"I heard him throwing up twice, I'm mean really, it sounded like it was coming up from his little toe to the top of his head," she said.

Her daughter tried to speak to him.

"She said 'Mike! Mike! Are you OK?' He didn't answer, didn't acknowledge, and they took him, put him in the ambulance and took him away," said Chamberlin.

Services for her husband will be held next week. In the meantime, neighbors wonder and grieve.

"Mike was a great guy and I have nothing in the world bad to say about Mike," said Chamberlin. 'He's a sweetheart."

More answers in Cormier's death are expected next week when the coroner will receive the results of toxicology tests, which will show if any poison was in Cormier's body.