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Hundreds of Floridians have tested positive for horse tranquilizer after death

Data shows that a combination of fentanyl and an animal tranquilizer called xylazine has been quietly killing people in the Tampa Bay area for years.

Jenna Bourne (WTSP), Libby Hendren

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Published: 10:49 AM EST December 15, 2022
Updated: 11:06 AM EST December 15, 2022

A short walk from the beach, Cody Heilig took his last breath inside a Gulfport shed in May 2020.

“I was scared, shocked. I didn’t know what to do,” said Heilig’s mother, Kim Seidel.

Heilig’s family said they thought he had stopped using drugs. They thought he was healthy. So, they were heartbroken to learn he died from a drug overdose.

“I love all of my children, all my grandchildren. No matter what they do, whether it’s right or wrong, I still love them,” said Heilig’s grandmother, Dolores Wiese.

But there was something about Heilig’s death that his family didn’t know until 10 Investigates called them.

He had an animal tranquilizer in his system when he died: xylazine. It’s a veterinary sedative mostly used in large animals like horses and cattle.

“I actually had to Google it after I was contacted about this interview,” Seidel said. “I never saw the autopsy results from it.”

Credit: Family of Cody Heilig
Cody Heilig

That autopsy says her son’s cause of death was fentanyl and xylazine toxicity.

“I think people need to know about it,” Seidel said.

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