An autopsy report on John Rodman Steele, a Highland Park man who killed himself after attacking his wife in early July, shows that he had .05 mg of zolpidem, a prescription medication used to treat insomnia, in his bloodstream.
Zolpidem is commercially sold as Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, or Zolpimist and can be manufactured as a tablet or spray, according to the National Institute of Health.
The drug slows down brain activity and allows those who have difficulty falling or staying asleep do so. It belongs to a class of medications that are referred to as sedative-hypnotics.
Many neighbors and friends who knew Steele said that his actions were uncharacteristic for the family man who was an active part of Highland Park United Methodist Church. He was a business man who taught children’s classes at the church and he and his wife, who were described to have a strong marriage, were leaders of a prayer group.
Among normal symptoms, there are many dangerous side-effects to zolpidem, some of which include behavior and mental health changing in unexpected ways or unconsciously performing various acts while sleeping.
On the day of the incident, Steele’s wife awoke to him trying to stab her in their upstairs bedroom. After being stopped by his son, Steele went down to the kitchen and took his own life.
Update: According to additional reports from the Medical Examiner’s office, Steele had been seeing a psychiatrist who was helping him deal with a two to three year history of major depression and Vicodin abuse. WFAA has the investigative narrative of the autopsy.