A UNC Student’s Overdose Death at Duke

A Carolina freshman was found unconscious in a Duke University dorm room in March and died two days later of a drug overdose. Neither university said anything publicly about her death until contacted by The Assembly.

by Charlotte Kramon and Michael Hewlett

Paramedics rushed into a residence hall on Duke University’s Kilgo quad at about 6:30 a.m. on March 9 and climbed to the third floor of the old stone building around the corner from Duke Chapel. In room 309, they found a pale, chilled body in a puffy jacket, on her back in a twin bed and glistening in a pool of sweat. 

The young woman was barely breathing, according to the 911 call log and an investigative report. A trash can sat next to the bed.

After almost an hour of treatment for cardiac arrest, an ambulance took Elizabeth Grace Burton, a business student from Charlotte and member of Zeta Tau Alpha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to the Duke University Hospital. Two days later, she was pronounced dead. Burton was 19.

A state autopsy says she died of cardiac arrest from a toxic mix of cocaine and alcohol. A private autopsy also found fentanyl and GHB, a depressant that can give feelings of euphoria.

Until contacted by The Assembly, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill said nothing publicly about the death. Duke said it deferred to UNC because Burton was a student there, and UNC said it considers the family’s wishes when deciding to release a statement. 

No one has been charged with Burton’s death. But Burton’s companion that night, former Duke student Patrick Rowland, has pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to facilitate the distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Rowland, 22, is scheduled to appear in federal court on October 18 for a status hearing and will be sentenced in December.

Rowland could face a civil suit from Burton’s family. He is no longer at Duke. Duke officials won’t say whether he was expelled or left voluntarily. 

Read the full article on the Assembly website.

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