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Dr. Bennett's services and expertise are an asset to many crucial legal issues that become headlining news stories. He has participated in television and newspaper interviews for  cases.  Click on the image or the title to read articles related to cases Dr. Bennett has participated in. (when available)

Vape-related deaths & illnesses rise, SC toxicologist discusses health risks.

by Anne Emerson, Reporter ABC News 4

Friday, October 18th 2019

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — The death toll jumped to 33 this week and continues to rise from vape-related illnesses here in the United States.

The government is warning consumers to not use any vape products with THC.

ABC News 4's Anne Emerson spoke to a toxicologist on Friday who says scientists are zeroing in on what could be causing the fatal consequences.

THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana that gets you high, is illegal in South Carolina. Yet, one-third of all teens report vaping it.

But to vape it, you have to mix it with an oil.

That's what could be the most dangerous side effect, and it's right under parents' noses.

78% of the reported vape-related deaths have been linked to THC vaping. The carrier oils that are mixed with THC are perfectly legal. They're just the delivery system.

But, according to researchers, these oils are not supposed to be inhaled into the lungs.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported last week that it's finding lipoid pneumonia -- a fat coating the lungs and causing inflammation -- linked to vaping.

"THC is a very unique chemical. It's whats called a fat soluble compound. It doesn't dissolve in water, it only dissolves in fat or lipids or oils, so the drug dealers are having to put the THC in an oil so it will dissolve so it can be put into the device," explained Dr. Robert Bennett, a forensic toxicologist.

This includes oils like CBD, Dr. Bennett added.

"The lungs are not designed to be coated with a film of oil, so no matter what you use, if it contains oil, it's going to be damaging to the lung," Dr. Bennett explained.

CBD is readily available and legal. It's made from hemp and marijuana plants, but holds no psychoactive properties.

Yet, he said, vaping the oil can cause the respiratory damage.

Report: Driver who killed Danish girl downtown had synthetic opioids in his system

by Jenny Peterson, Reporter ABC NEWS 4

 CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)  -October 10th 2018

 A toxicology report released today shows that Jeffrey Wakefield, 30, the Charleston man who killed an 11-year-old Danish girl with his car in downtown Charleston in July, had the synthetic opioid Fentanyl in his system at the time of the crash.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Fentanyl is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.

Wakefield was suspected to be under the influence by police after he drove through the intersection of Calhoun and Rutledge and onto the sidewalk, striking Selma Akguel, who was visiting with her parents from Denmark on the night of July 9.

The girl died the next day.

Wakefield blew a 0.00 blood alcohol content.

According to a to the toxicology report administered by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Wakefield had the following drugs in his system based on a blood sample:

   Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

   Diphenhydramine, an anti-histamine that can be purchased over the counter.

   Mitragynine, also known as Kratom, a legal herb that produces opioid-like effects on the body.

Kratom is a natural herb produced by a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Consumption of the tree leaves produces opioid-like effects, according to the DEA.

According to Dr. Robert Bennett, a forensic toxicologist, both Fentanyl and Mitragynine produce the same effects as heroin.

“These are abused substances to give the effect of heroin,” Bennett said.

He adds that Kratom is generally abused when a person is unable to get opioids.

Police reports: Man who killed Danish girl says he was prescribed several different drugs.

By Anne Emerson, Reporter ABC NEWS 4


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — July 19, 2018


New information from supplemental police reports about the man who is charged with felony DUI and reckless homicide in the death of an 11-year-old Danish girl show he was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.


However, police reports reveal what kind of drugs Jeffrey Wakefield might have taken.


We took those reports to an expert to understand how it might affect his case.

Dr. Robert Bennett is a forensic toxicologist. Courts routinely consult with him to make a determination which drugs had an effect in a criminal case, and which ones don’t.


In this case, Jeffrey Wakefield provided a breath sample. According to a report, he blew a 0.00 blood alcohol content.


However, in the supplemental police report, the suspect told a nurse in front of police about a list of his prescription drugs, including Neurontin, Lexapro, Percocet and Gabapentin.


An officer wrote that he overheard Wakefield telling his father on a phone call, "There isn't anything in my blood right now, but it might be in my system."


That's what stood out to Dr. Bennett.


“The real number I want to look at is the Percocet number. How much Oxycodone was in his system at that time," he said.


Percocet is a prescription painkiller, also known as oxycodone.


Dr. Bennett says, “There is the therapeutic range where he was taking them as he was supposed to, or they were outside the therapeutic range he was taking them more and abusing them. So there is potential for abuse there with the Percocet.”


Wakefield's blood and urine samples are still being process by SLED.


However, Dr. Bennett says prescription drugs could make this case tricky for the prosecutors down the road.


“It appears that these medications were given under the care of a physician and responsibility lies with the healthcare professionals, so these are not street drugs or illegal drugs,” Dr. Bennett says.


In the police report, an officer overheard Wakefield say to his father in another phone call, "I got high and killed someone tonight."


Dr. Bennett says, "I think that it is very damaging without further info to put that in proper context as it is. That statement alone is very damaging by itself from a legal perspective."



TOP STORY  -Aug 11, 2017

Georgia man found innocent in Kyle Martin's death

Although a SLED forensic scientist testified that a Georgia man, who collided with a Conway motorcyclist in 2015, was definitely impaired, an Horry County jury found him innocent Friday afternoon of felony driving under the influence.


Osvaldo Manuel Velez-Colon, 29, was charged with causing the death of Jonathan Kyle Martin, who was 32-years-old when he and Velez-Colon collided at the intersection of U.S. 17 bypass and S.C. 544.


Velez-Colon’s attorney public defender Casey Brown argued that his client was not impaired when the accident happened early on the morning of October 11 and that Carmine Tucker, a SLED forensic scientist, was not considering how drugs impacted him individually when she firmly declared that he was impaired based on a blood sample taken from him shortly after the accident.


Tucker said Velez-Colon’s test showed that he had used methadone, marijuana and Xanax sometime before he drove on the morning of the car crash.


Prosecutor George DeBusk argued that Velez-Colon would have been too impaired to drive if he had ingested only the marijuana and Xanax, but adding the methadone to the formula made his condition even worse.


Tucker said Velez-Colon had smoked or eaten marijuana only one to three hours before the collision. Add Xanax, a depressant to that, and the drug trio definitely impaired Velez-Colon, the forensic scientist said.


However, testifying for the defense Robert Bennett, a pharmacist and toxicologist from Charleston, said there was no way that Tucker could declare Velez-Colon impaired without talking to him and giving him what he called Clinical Tests for Impairment.


He also said that everybody reacts differently to drugs and, therefore, Tucker needed more than numbers on a piece of paper to evaluate Velez-Colon.


He also questioned the impact that the marijuana might have had on Velez-Colon saying his evaluation showed that the young man was a regular user of marijuana, which would have given him more tolerance, which would have negated Tucker’s findings that he had smoked or ingested the drug within a few hours before the collision.

-Read the whole story at :  




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