Experts weigh in on Blue Martini reports
Local experts discuss what could be going ...
9114 Strada Place, Naples, FL
NAPLES — As more people come forward with stories of suspected drugging at the Blue Martini in North Naples — 37 as of Thursday — local law enforcement and medical experts say solving the case and arresting the culprit will be “extremely difficult.”
And that’s assuming there’s a culprit to be found.
A former bartender said he believes people are simply overindulging in alcohol, and a Blue Martini attorney has said he believes many of the reports can be explained by people unintentionally mixing prescription medications with alcohol.
In fact, several studies in the United Kingdom have shown that drink spiking has become something of an “urban legend.” Most cases of people losing control and losing consciousness are due to nothing more than excessive drinking, the studies found.
“Most ladies who pass out, who think they have been raped, are solely under the influence of alcohol. By far the most,” said Dr. Terence Moore, a British physician who worked for the South Yorkshire Police for 27 years, and now lives in North Naples.
Still, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office is taking the case “very seriously,” Chief Jim Williams said.
“We’re putting a lot of resources into looking at something that is very, very big and very, very vague,” Williams said.
Most of the reports were filed after the Daily News ran a story on March 4, about three women who reported blacking out after having a few drinks at the Blue Martini, 9114 Strada Place, at the Mercato at North Naples.
Duane Dobbert, a forensic behavior analyst at Florida Gulf Coast University, said he suspects someone has been spiking drinks at the Blue Martini. But solving the case will be “extremely difficult,” he said.
“I think there’s enough different incidents that have taken place, that where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire,” Dobbert said.
Naples isn’t the only place where reports like these are popping up. Authorities in Aspen, Colo., and Anchorage, Alaska, are also investigating cases of people who believe they were drugged at local bars, according to media reports.
A lack of evidence
As the investigation into the Blue Martini continues, one thing that authorities have no shortage of is allegations.
Although the Sheriff’s Office continues to ask people to report suspicious incidents, no matter when they occurred, the agency admits that delayed reports make investigating the claims more difficult.
“Well, you’ve got a succession of stories, and it’s not evidence,” Moore said. “There are so many potential other explanations.”
“If, in fact, what is alleged was taking place, that places people in Collier County in jeopardy,” he said.
When asked if people who dine at the Blue Martini are in danger, Williams said “absolutely not.”
During an interview in early March, Blue Martini attorney Richard Chosid said: “We don’t know if this may be the result of somebody who has the flu and is medicating.” Attempts to reach him for this story were unsuccessful.
Moore said that mixing medications with alcohol could be a possible explanation for some of the reports. He pointed to sedatives in the benzodiazepine family — Xanax, Valium, ProSam — as possible culprits.
However, several of the people who filed reports with the Sheriff’s Office say they weren’t using medications at the time.
“I’ve never taken any prescription meds, not even any antibiotics,” said Dana Fisher, 26, a former Blue Martini waitress who said she blacked out and was arrested on a DUI charge in November after having one drink after her shift. “I’m not saying that’s impossible, but I think its fairly odd to say that many people were taking prescription meds while drinking.”
Carole Venus Allen, 39, who filed a report after saying she blacked out after a glass of wine, said she’s not on medication either.
“They’re just trying to hide the truth, so shame on them,” Allen said.
As the UK studies have shown, binge drinking could also be an explanation, Moore said.
“To blame alcohol, I think, is a process of exclusion,” Moore said. “Given the momentum this issue has got, you’ve got to disprove other things.”
How and why
If someone is spiking drinks at the Blue Martini, the most likely drugs would be gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or Rohypnol (roofies), experts say.
Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer for Hazeldon, a nationally renowned addiction services center in Minnesota, said he believes Rohypnol is the drug getting slipped into the drinks, if that is what’s happening. The drug is fast acting and with a large enough dosage will cause black outs, lack of memory and loss of coordination, he said.
Moore suspects GHB, a colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid, which produces similar effects. GHB is harder to detect, because after four or five hours, the levels of the drug left in the body drop significantly.
To detect GHB, a urine sample needs to be taken by a professional quickly, Moore said.
The reason a perpetrator would slip a “date rape” drug in someone’s drink is to take advantage of someone who normally could not be taken advantage of easily, Seppala said. It isn’t clear if any of the people who filed reports about the Blue Martini were assaulted.
Christine Holmes, substance abuse director of the David Lawrence Center in Collier County, said the symptoms of blacking out and memory loss are consistent with roofies, but the lack of a secondary victimization of the alleged victims, by sexual assault or theft, is perplexing.
“These drugs cost money, to waste them just to make someone have a reaction doesn’t seem consistent with a perpetrator,” Holmes said. “What’s missing is (the victims) have not come forward with a secondary crime.”
Dobbert said the culprit could be a malcontent employee with an axe to grind or, for those conspiracy-minded, someone from a competing business looking to damage the Blue Martini. Or, it could be someone with an anti-social personality disorder — a sadist — who likes watching others suffer.
“I also believe it’s not going to happen again because of the media exposure,” he said.
Without physical evidence, like a toxicology report, Dobbert said investigators need to use the reports they have to delineate a possible suspect group within the staff. He said they should look closely at disgruntled or previously-disciplined employees.
They also need to interview staff members about customers who were at the bar on days the incidents occurred, and should be using covert cameras and keeping the tapes.
“A lot of things are possible,” Williams said. “We’re trying to gather evidence and conduct an investigation and be able to factually prove, by either forensic evidence or testimonial evidence, that something happened.”
BLUE MARTINI STORIES & DOCUMENTS
- VIDEO: Experts weigh in on Blue Martini reports
- 11 more report drugging allegations at Blue Martini
- VIDEO: Blue Martini investigation grows to 37 reports, no answers though
- Brent Batten: Independent Blue Martini probe takes a wrong turn
- Former Blue Martini waitress claims to be victim of spiked drink; suspects bartenders
- Over two dozen Blue Martini customers come forward to share their black-out stories
- Four more who think they were drugged at Blue Martini come forward
- Collier Sheriff’s Office investigating Blue Martini again after receiving 14 more complaints
- Former Blue Martini bartender: 'People are overindulging in booze'
- Women report sudden blackouts at popular Naples hangout, Blue Martini
- DOCUMENT: Collier County Sheriff's Office report: Cynthia Kathryn Booker-Gatz (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Collier County Sheriff's Office report: Anne Marie Contieri (.pdf)
- DOCUMENT: Collier County Sheriff's Office report: Unidentified Person (.pdf)