See’s death meth-induced

This is a developing article. The latest update occurred at 8:32 p.m. on January 6. 

Samuel See, the Yale assistant professor found lifeless in jail on Nov. 24, died from a heart attack induced by methamphetamines, the State Medical Examiner’s Office told the News Monday afternoon.

See’s cause of death is listed as “acute methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication with recent myocardial infarction,” according to the toxicology report released by Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill. See’s death was ruled an “accidental death,” an employee at the medical examiner’s office said. Neither the amount of the substance See consumed nor the time of consumption was clear.

See, 34, was detained on Nov. 23 following a domestic dispute with his husband, Sunder Ganglani. The two men, who were married in May 2013, had mutual protective orders registered against each other following a disturbance in September for which they were both charged with assault in the third degree and breach of peace. When police arrived at See’s home in the afternoon of Nov. 23, called in by See’s sister, and found Ganglani there, officers arrested both men for violating the mutual protective orders.

See struggled with and threatened police on the scene, according to eports from the New Haven Police Department. After receiving treatment at Yale-New Haven Hospital for a cut above his left eye sustained during the arrest, See was detained in a local lock-up center administered by State Judicial Marshals at 1 Union Ave. He was found unresponsive in his cell shortly after6 a.m. the next morning, Nov. 24.

Colleagues and students interviewed in the wake of the death said they had no information about See’s drug use. English professor Katie Trumpener told the News that See was battling both physical and mental health issues, having at one point told her that he was HIV positive. See was on unpaid leave from the English department last Fall following multiple medical leaves. Lindsey Uniat ’15 said See, who was her advisor, told her in Spring 2013 that he was having health issues but that they were “not life-threatening.”

John Rogers ’84 GRD ’89, the director of undergraduate studies for the English department, told the News in a November email that he was “certain” See’s leave was not related to drugs.

Mark D’Antonio, the media director for Yale-New Haven Hospital, declined to comment Monday on See’s particular case, but did say patients brought in under police custody are only released once they are deemed physically fit — the same standards applied to any other patient treated at the hospital.

D’Antonio also could not comment on the prevalence of medical tests for drugs or other substances in arrested patients.

But the timeline of events does not line up, according to Trumpener, who counted See among her closest friends.

“How is it that he was injured enough to go to the emergency room, but the people in the ER didn’t notice the same thing that was going to kill him later that night?” Trumpener wondered, adding that treating physicians would have just monitored See’s vital signs.

Ultimately, a medically determined cause of death leaves many questions unanswered, said English and Theater Studies Professor Joseph Roach.

“Something happened, and I don’t know what it is, between the Sam I knew and the Sam who ended up dying so young, so tragically, and so mysteriously,” said Roach. “And I can’t put those two pieces together.”

Trumpener said details of See’s mental and physical state were sparse in the final months of his life — even among his confidants at the University. She said she knew See to have been admitted to a mental hospital in April 2013 following multiple visits to the hospital for a variety of health reasons earlier in the year. By the Fall, she said, See had been released. He told her his stay in the psych ward had been “excruciating” but that he was doing better — that hallucinations he had been having as a byproduct of a small stroke had stopped. He invited her over for tea to meet his husband, she said.

Still, Trumpener said, See was worried about his own mental state, concerned that he was “going to injure Sunder in his sleep, like having a post-traumatic stress dream.”

“Things went badly wrong,” Trumpener added, reflecting on the period of time between See’s upbeat suggestion that she meet Ganglani and the pair’s falling out mere weeks later. “One or both of them must have been in some altered state.”

Andrew Sotiriou ’13, who took See’s “Tragedy” course as a sophomore, said that, though he never knew See to have struggled with drugs, the professor was an intense man who might have needed ways to cope with various career and personal frustrations.

“If there was [any drug use], it never came to my attention,” Sotiriou said in a November interview with the News. “He was just such a driven individual … It wouldn’t be the most shocking thing to me if things were involved to help calm or focus because he was always giving so much, and that comes at a price.”

A remembrance for See is scheduled for Jan. 25 in Battell Chapel.

Clarification: Jan. 12

A previous version of this article quoted English Professor Katie Trumpener as saying that See suffered “small strokes” when, in fact, See had told her that he had suffered a single stroke. 

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