mysterious deaths
June 24, 2019

A hotel in the Dominican Republic where two American tourists recently died said it is removing liquor bottles from its minibars, but denies the move has anything to do with the deaths.

Erica Lopez, the general manager of The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, told CNN the decision to take out the bottles was made last week. Over the last year, at least 10 American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic, including David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, who died at the Hard Rock last July, and Robert Wallace, 67, of California, who died there in April. One theory behind the deaths is that tainted alcohol was somehow involved, and Wallace's relatives told KTXL he became ill after drinking scotch from the minibar in his room.

The FBI is assisting Dominican officials with toxicology reports, testing samples from some hotel minibars; authorities say that any time someone dies in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic, they test minibars for bacteria and take samples of water from showers and sinks. Last year, 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, with 2.2 million from the United States, and officials from both countries say the deaths are not connected and there's no reason to cancel any upcoming vacations. Catherine Garcia

June 19, 2019

As part of an investigation into the unexplained deaths of nine American tourists over the last 13 months in the Dominican Republic, the FBI is testing samples taken from a minibar at one of the hotels where some of the Americans stayed, Dominican officials told CNN on Wednesday.

The samples were taken from the Bahia Principe Hotel. Ministry of Health communications director Carlos Suero told CNN that whenever a person dies in a Dominican hotel room, authorities test samples collected from the room's minibar, sink, and shower for bacteria.

In several cases, families of the deceased have said their loved one had a drink from the minibar before their death. Dominican officials are adamant that these were isolated cases and there's no reason for worried people to cancel their vacations. Catherine Garcia

June 6, 2019

Authorities in the Dominican Republic are investigating whether the mysterious deaths of three American tourists at hotels owned by the same company are related.

Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, from Pennsylvania died May 25 at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in San Pedro de Macoris. Officials said she started to feel sick while in her room, and was dead just two hours later. Cynthia Ann Day, 49, and Nathaniel Edwards Holmes, 63, of Maryland were staying at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana next door, and resort staff found their bodies inside their room on May 30, after worried relatives called and said they hadn't returned home.

The Dominican government released autopsy details on Thursday, revealing that all three Americans had internal hemorrhaging, pulmonary edema, and enlarged hearts. A U.S. State Department official told The Washington Post authorities have not yet found a definitive link between the deaths. Toxicology reports are pending, and Dominican officials said they are waiting to see if Schaup-Werner, Day, and Holmes all ingested something that led to their deaths. Catherine Garcia

March 11, 2016

On Thursday, the D.C. medical examiner's office said a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who was found dead in a hotel room last November didn't die from a heart attack, as his family believed, but rather from blunt force trauma to the head.

Mikhail Lesin, 59, was discovered in a Dupont Circle hotel room on Nov. 5, The Washington Post reports, and it's unclear why he was in Washington at the time. Lesin, who once served as a press minister and was the executive of GazpromMedia, also had injuries to his neck, torso, and upper and lower extremities, the medical examiner said in a statement. The examiner did not say if they were able to determine if the injuries were the result of an accident, crime, or something else.

After his death, Lesin's family told Russian news media that he had long-term illnesses, and it was likely he died from a heart attack. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said the Russian Embassy in the U.S. has not been provided with "any substantive information" on Lesin's death, and is "waiting for clarification from Washington and the relevant official details on the progress of the investigation." Catherine Garcia

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