Marine sniper involved in controversial video found dead of accidental drug OD
The sudden death of a Marine Corps combat veteran after his controversial exit from the military was a result of drug toxicity from one of his prescriptions, according to a newly published autopsy report.
Rob Richards, 28, was found dead in his Jacksonville, North Carolina, home Aug. 13, a year and five days after he was medically retired from the service as a corporal. Richards, a combat-wounded veteran with multiple deployments, had been among a group of Marine scout snipers whose actions came under intense scrutiny after a video surfaced in 2012 depicting them urinating on an enemy corpse in Afghanistan.
Richards disliked the publicity associated with the urination scandal and worked hard to put the incident behind him, but his autopsy report and other medical documents released to Marine Corps Times reveal the scars of combat and the psychological toll his experiences had taken.
Richards' death was ruled accidental as a result of oxymorphone toxicity, with post-mortem blood analysis revealing levels of .074 milliliters per gram in his system. Oxymorphone is the active drug in Opana, a pain drug that was one of 12 prescription medications found in Richards' home, according to the autopsy report.
The report also revealed darker moments in the veteran's medical history, including a history of depression and periods of heroin, steroid and alcohol use.
Richard's widow, Raechel Richards, said her husband had used heroin for a four-month period to mitigate pain before seeking treatment to get clean. At the time of his death, she said, he had been off the drug completely for six months.
During his military career, Richards defied catastrophic injuries to return to the battlefield. During a March 2010 foot patrol near the city of Marjah, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, an improvised explosive blast sent shrapnel into his legs, back and left arm, and lodged a hexagonal nut the size of a quarter in his throat.
Though the injuries qualified Richards for 100 percent medical disability, and the experience left him with depression and post-traumatic stress — he spent a month in a psychiatric facility after discharging a pistol in a Florida hotel room in a frightening moment of disorientation — he volunteered to return to Afghanistan in 2011 with another scout sniper unit attached to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Twelve months after he was wounded, Richards quit his medications cold turkey and deployed for the last time.