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Death of LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg was suicide, coroner rules

No foul play is suspected in the 25-year-old golf pro's death, but police issue an arrest warrant for Thomas Hess, a doctor who knew Blasberg and who found her body in her Nevada home on May 9 and called police.

August 24, 2010|By David Wharton

More than three months after LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg died under mysterious circumstances in her Nevada home, a coroner ruled Tuesday that she had committed suicide.

Although no foul play is suspected, police issued an arrest warrant for Thomas Hess, a doctor who had developed a relationship with Blasberg after they met at a country club.

It was Hess who found Blasberg's body on May 9 and called police. He faces charges of obstructing justice for allegedly removing a suicide note and prescription drugs from the scene.

"I came by to check on her last night and, you know, she had a couple drinks, was sad," a breathless Hess said in a 911 call released by police in Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas. "I came by to check on her now and she's dead."

Blasberg, 25, had secured a plastic bag over her head. Toxicology tests detected several prescription drugs in her system, including headache, cough, pain and anti-anxiety medications.

"While asphyxia was the primary cause of death, the presence of prescription drugs in Ms. Blasberg's system was a significant factor," Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said in a statement.

Neither Hess nor his attorney, Charles Kelly, could be reached for comment.

Earlier this year, Blasberg's death sent shock waves through the women's professional tour.

Reared in Southern California and coached by her father, Mel, a teaching pro in Corona, Blasberg was a standout at the University of Arizona and seemed to possess all of the requirements for success.

Thin and blond with a pretty smile, she secured an endorsement deal with Puma shortly after turning professional and earned promising results on tour in 2008.

But her game faltered after that and she had grown increasingly unhappy. By this year, she was reduced to scratching her way through Monday qualifiers.

Still, Blasberg played well at a tour event in Mexico in April and her father insisted that she had turned a corner. In the 911 call, an operator asked Hess if Blasberg had been depressed or threatening suicide.

"No," he answered. "Nothing like that."

Her death occurred the day before she was scheduled to play in a qualifier at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala. Players at the event gathered for a memorial.

"You know, she was more than a golfer," Michelle Wie said then. "She was a really great person."

The ensuing investigation dragged on as authorities waited nearly two months for toxicology results. Meanwhile, more and more attention focused on Hess, who, according to police, initially admitted to altering the scene but soon stopped cooperating.

Mel Blasberg recently said his daughter spoke of a connection to Hess that extended beyond the normal doctor-patient relationship, but he did not know whether they were romantically involved.

"This guy was there at some point before she died," he said. "He's a very integral part of all this."

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