Nevada City Police finds no evidence in roofie case | TheUnion.com

Nevada City Police finds no evidence in roofie case

When A.Y. walked into Golden Era Lounge the night of Nov. 11, she clearly was out to have a good time.

In surveillance video provided by Golden Era owner Steve Giardina, she can be seen greeting friends, dancing and clapping, talking to band members, and drinking several beers. Over the period of nearly an hour in the downtown Nevada City bar, A.Y. rocked out to the band but appeared to be moving normally.

Toward the end of the footage, however, her demeanor changed dramatically, as she staggered, bounced off other patrons and lost her hat. What happened after that, including two falls that fueled her suspicion that she was "roofied," or surreptitiously drugged, at some point that night, is not documented. Her drink is completely or partially obscured in the video, but it does not appear anyone passing by stopped for long or got close to the drink.

The next day, A.Y. made a report to the Nevada City Police Department, and her mother posted her experience on Facebook, leading a number of locals to come forward with their own stories of being roofied at local establishments.

“Moving forward, I would encourage people who believe they have been victimized by someone placing something in their drink or food to report it immediately, so that a thorough investigation can be conducted.”

— Nevada City Police Chief Tim Foley

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Absent a toxicology report, a lengthy investigation found no evidence, and the case was closed as "unsubstantiated."

A.Y., who asked that her name not be used, said she was not surprised law enforcement found no hard evidence but noted in a crowded bar with obscured lines of vision, it can be hard to see someone dropping something into a glass.

"They can't prove it happened, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen," she said. "The problem is, it's hard to catch people in the act. It happened and it will continue to happen; people need to be aware."

Giardina said the No. 1 priority at Golden Era is providing a safe environment for its guests and staff.

Any report like this one is "taken with the utmost seriousness," he said.

"We immediately began to cooperate with law enforcement," Giardina added, complimenting Nevada City's police force for its thoroughness and diligence.

Golden Era has made a substantial investment in surveillance and security equipment, and the bar's cameras are intended to discourage bad behavior, Giardina said, adding that the majority of his staff has completed training through the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

"If bad behavior should occur, we wanted to have the tools to assist law enforcement in the investigation and the apprehension of the individual(s) responsible," Giardina said. "Perhaps a raised level of awareness can be a catalyst for all sectors."

Little memory of events

Nevada City Police Det. Luke Holdcroft reviewed surveillance video both from Golden Era and the Mine Shaft — where A.Y. had been earlier in the evening — and could not see any sign the woman's drinks being tampered with.

In his review of the footage, Holdcroft noted several men placed tips in a tip jar near A.Y.'s drink and walked by, but that "there were no movements that appeared as though they placed anything in her drink."

Nearly a half-hour after entering the bar, A.Y. got a second drink, which is partially consumed by her husband. They then leave the bar for seven minutes. After returning, she got a third drink and within a few minutes, she begins stumbling.

A.Y.'s drink was "either in her possession, her husband's possession or in view of the surveillance cameras while in the Mine Shaft and Golden Era," Holdcroft wrote in his report. "The bartender can be seen opening/dispensing the drinks to (A.Y.'s) husband and at no time did I observe any suspicious movements made by the bartenders."

During the times her drinks were left unattended, Holdcroft saw "no suspicious activity or movements in the area … which would lead me to believe somebody was placing something in her drink."

Holdcroft wrote in the report, which was released in late December, that the first beer A.Y, and her husband shared at Golden Era was a triple IPA in a 22-ounce bottle, with a 10.4 percent alcohol level, according to the bartender. For perspective, most beers have an alcohol content of 4 to 6 percent. Hard liquor has a much higher alcohol content — typically 40 percent for vodka or rum.

The detective noted that he spoke to experts regarding crimes involving rohypnol and GHB, drugs frequently associated with such an alleged crime. Holdcroft said he consulted with a DEA expert and concluded that based on the amount of alcohol consumed by A.Y., he would have expected a loss of memory regarding the events of that night.

She did not report a "retrograde amnesia" to police officers in the initial report, Holdcroft said, adding that he did not re-interview her.

When A.Y. spoke to The Union two days after the incident, however, she described having very little memory of that night.

In his report, Holdcroft noted the time gap when A.Y. and her husband left the bar, writing that she never provided an explanation in her original statement. A.Y. said she can't remember what she was doing or where she went during those minutes.

"What I do know is that we go out to dance (frequently)," she said. "It's common for us to go outside to cool off."

No tox report

Nevada City Police Chief Tim Foley said he would have been pleased to charge a perpetrator if such an alleged crime occurred, but there was no evidence to support the allegation.

"We don't want that conduct in our bars — or anywhere else," he said.

"Moving forward," Foley said, "I would encourage people who believe they have been victimized by someone placing something in their drink or food to report it immediately, so that a thorough investigation can be conducted."

That will include taking a blood sample, Foley said.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital does not test for some of the more common roofie drugs in its standard blood draw, and does not have the ability to maintain the required chain of custody necessary for taking blood samples for a potential criminal case.

Local police departments, however, can facilitate blood being drawn and can send it out to a forensic lab.

No toxicology report was done in A.Y.'s case; she said that she would have followed through with getting her blood drawn if she had been asked to.

"We're working on ensuring that processes are in place to take samples that would detect the most likely drugs, to have that procedure in place," Foley said. "It would be hard to test for everything — but we will do the best we can with our resources."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@theunion.com.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Some of the more common “roofie” drugs are rohypnol, clonazepam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax), GHB and ketamine. Some of the pills make clear liquids turn bright blue and make dark liquids turn cloudy, but this color change might be hard to see in a dark drink, or in a dark room. GHB might give your drink a slightly salty taste.

Don’t accept drinks from other people.

Keep your drink with you at all times, even when you go to the bathroom.

Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells strange.

Have a nondrinking friend with you to make sure nothing happens..

If you feel drunk and haven’t drunk any alcohol — or, if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual — get help right away.

Source: MedicineNet.com

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