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Multiple substances are ruled cause of death for man found in alley

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator reports that the cause of death for the man found dead in an alley last month was an accident caused by toxic effects of “multiple drugs.”

Matthew L. Van Note, 26, was discovered in an alley running between Shartelle Avenue and Garden Avenue by a woman taking out her trash the morning of Wednesday, June 21. Van Note was found lying face-down.
While the woman who discovered Van Note thought the man had passed out, an arriving officer quickly determined he was deceased.
Medical investigator Lori Proe wrote in the report Van Note died of the toxic effects of codeine, ethanol and heroin. An autopsy revealed no internal injuries, but Van Note did have scrapes and bruises on his face and scalp.
When the cause of death was not yet determined, the Roswell Police Department classified the incident as a suspicious death.
Proe said that Van Note’s medical history was reportedly significant for chronic ethanol abuse.
“The heart was enlarged, a change that is often caused by high blood pressure and also associated with chronic alcohol use,” Proe explained. “As the heart enlarges, it requires more of the oxygen and nutrients supplied by blood in order to keep working well.
“Unfortunately, blood supply to the heart does not increase proportionately as the muscle gets bigger and the heart becomes vulnerable to inadequate blood supply. There were changes of the liver that are most often caused by recent and ongoing alcohol use.”

The victim’s younger brother, Seth Van Note, said his brother Matthew struggled with alcoholism since his early teenage years.
“Alcohol was his biggest problem,” Seth Van Note said. “He had two previous heroin overdoses prior to his death, but alcohol was somewhat of an issue for him.
“He’s been in assistance programs before. There’s an alcohol rehab program in Albuquerque that he went to once. He admitted himself into there once and they gladly took him in. But once he came out, he didn’t stay sober for too long.”
According to previous reports, family members presumed Matthew Van Note overdosed on heroin.
Proe said codeine, ethanol and heroin all place a restrain on the parts of the brain that control breathing.
“When these drugs are ingested in excess or in combination, this effect on breathing is compounded and may cause breathing to stop entirely or slow to the point that organs and tissues are damaged due to lack of oxygen,” Proe said. “The manner of death is accident.”
If Seth Van Note had a message for others to take from his brother’s loss, he said it’s to continue staying close to family.
“He was a good person, but — you see a lot people in this city that suffer from addiction, but I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know,” Seth Van Note said. “If he stuck closer to his family, I think he would’ve been safer than wherever he was at.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.