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A few weeks ago, we reported on a Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting that took place on January 31st. Andrew Thibault, co-founder of the former nonprofit Parents Against Pharmaceutical Abuse, raised questions about the efficacy of Audrey Hale’s toxicology report, released by the Davidson County Medical Examiner on June 12, 2023. Thibault was asked to present to the committee due to his background: in 2018, he directed Speed Demons, a documentary about a school shooting with links to the effects of prescription drugs; a year prior, he filed a pro se FOIA suit against the FDA, which eventually gave him access to “700 drug adverse event reports” in which “homicide… was reported as the medication side effect.”

When Hale's report was released to the public, local media ran headlines such as “Autopsy: No findings of 'toxicological significance' in Covenant shooter” and “No 'toxicological significance' in autopsy of the Covenant School shooter.” “The Davidson County Medical Examiner requested what’s known as an ELISA Test,” Thibault said regarding Hale’s toxicology report. This test, he explained, only reported on “drugs of abuse" and couldn't possibly provide policymakers with the full picture they need to make informed decisions.

Following these claims, we took a closer look at Hale’s toxicology report in comparison with other, similar incidents. Given its proximity in both time and place, we delved into the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department’s full police report on Connor Sturgeon, who opened fire at Old National Bank two weeks after the Covenant shooting. Sturgeon’s postpartum toxicology report shows that 15.9 ng/mL of Alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, was detected in his samples. Xanax “is one of the most widely prescribed benzodiazepines for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

When comparing Sturgeon’s report to Hale’s, there is a key difference: the ELISA test conducted on Hale's samples, which was ordered by the Davidson County Medical Examiner Dr. Feng Li and administered by NMS labs, does not detect any benzodiazepines below 100 ng/mL. This suggests a more precise test must have produced the results reported by the state of Kentucky.

Interestingly, the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s office has ordered a more sensitive toxicology test in the recent past under the direction of both Li and current District Attorney Glenn Funk. In 2019, a high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) test was carried out by NMS labs: the same lab used for Hale’s report. Not only would this type of test have detected the level of benzodiazepines seen in Sturgeon’s report, it would have been sensitive enough to detect even lower levels of controlled substances: so, why did they not request this type of test for Hale’s toxicology?

As it turns out, the ELISA test conducted on Hale’s samples is an outlier when it comes to toxicology reports commonly requested for mass shooters. According to Thibault, NMS labs, known for its ability to execute a variety of esoteric toxicology tests, also “did the test on Stephen Paddock, the Vegas shooter, and they did what's known as an HPLC, or high performance liquid chromatography, which has a much higher sensitivity and detected three metabolites of Diazepam in his system.” The laboratory that tested Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, “found Alprazolam. In that case, they used liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.”


On April 11th, 2023, two weeks following the Covenant tragedy, NMS Labs issued Audrey Hale’s toxicology report. According to the paperwork, the lab received Hale’s samples on March 31, 2023, and “unless alternate arrangements are made by you [Forensic Medical Management Services - Nashville], the remainder of the submitted specimens will be discarded one year from the date of this report; and generated data will be discarded five years from the date the analyses were performed.”

Thibault expressed dissatisfaction with Davidson County’s findings. “I would argue that the ELISA test... is the answer to a question that nobody is asking,” he told the committee. “It amounts to an employment screening.” With less than two months until Hale’s lab samples are discarded, why aren’t lawmakers more curious?