S.C. nurse who accidentally poisoned husband using eye drops: "I just wanted to see him suffer."

Lana Clayton claimed that she found her husband Steve Clayton at the bottom a staircase in their South Carolina house. He was married for five years to Lana Clayton, a businessman who had created clinics for physical therapy.

S.C. nurse who accidentally poisoned husband using eye drops: "I just wanted to see him suffer."

Initial reports indicated that Clayton had suffered a heart attack. Clayton's nephew Nick French, a local police officer, noticed something odd about Lana's behavior and rushed to her to console her.

French informs Peter Van Sant, "48 Hours" correspondent, that she did not mention trying to revive him. "And Steve always had his mobile phone with him. We couldn't find Steve's phone anyplace."

The family was concerned about the cause of Clayton's death and requested an autopsy. The blood test showed that Steve Clayton had a strange chemical in his blood, tetrahydrozoline. This would change the direction of the investigation.

What was the Clayton family's crime? Could this have been a case of a copycat crime.

A STRANGE ACCIDENT

James Blackledge: I'm a Vietnam veteran. So I've seen and done it all.

James Blackledge was not prepared for what was to come as he passed the Clayton home on the morning 21 July 2018.

James Blackledge I was riding my motorcycle down this road...and all of a sudden I saw a woman running through this yard...and she was waving at me.

Lana Clayton was the one who had apparently just ran out of her home.

James Blackledge : She flagged down me and stopped me. She said "call 911" as her first response.

JAMES BLACKLEDGE - Is this 911?
911 DISSPATCHER: It is.
JAMES BLACKLEDGE : I was just rinkin' by when a woman ran out to me and said that her husband had fallen down the steps. She thinks he is dead.

Blackledge was on the phone with his dispatcher and watched Lana race across the street to her neighbor's house.

Terry Floyd : I suddenly heard a loud knock on my screen. It almost sounded like someone was going to break the glass. It was Lana.

Terry Floyd is a friend of Lana & Steve.

Terry Floyd. I then asked her what was wrong. She kept repeating, "It's Steve." It's Steve."

Terry and Terry jumped in Terry's golf car, and they raced to Clayton's front door.

Terry Floyd : I asked, "Well, where's he?" She replied, "He's at base of stairs here in the foyer."

Peter Van Sant - What were you thinking while all this unfolds?

James Blackledge I thought it was an accident. It was a strange accident. What I found most bizarre was the fact that she sat on front steps. The man entered the house.

Terry Floyd - I tried to get my pulse. I could not get a pulse. And I just knew he was dead.

Lana said that Steve suffered from vertigo three days before. Kristi O'Connor, a CBS affiliate WBTV reporter, covered the story.

KristiO'Connor: He was dizzy, nauseated, and bedridden.

Peter Van Sant - Their bedroom was located on the second floor, right?

KristiO'Connor: This is exactly right.

Lana stated that she checked on him at 11 AM and found him sound asleep. She then went outside to mow her lawn.

KristiO'Connor: He was hydrated. He had all his medication and other items nearby, so she made sure he was well taken care of.

Lana was a nurse, a calling that made Steve and Rosie very happy.

Rosie Clayton -Leslie : I felt that she would be there for him. He should not become ill, God forbid.

They met online in 2010. They were married three years later in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rosie Clayton -Leslie : I felt that my brother loved her so much and that she loved him very deeply.

Lana was married for the second time. Steve's family lost track of how many times he had been to the altar.

Kris Phagan : I believe the number is somewhere between six and seven. Steve was a lover. It wasn't always easy for him.

Kris Phagan, Steve's nephew, said that his uncle was an accountant who in the 1980s started a successful physical therapy company that targeted sports injuries.

Peter Van Sant - He made millions from this, right?

Kris Phagan: He did. He then retired fully at 40.

Peter Van Sant - What was their daily life like?

KristiO'Connor: I'd say they had it all.

After a few hours of work in the yard, Lana discovered that her husband, 64 years old, was dead when she returned to her home on July 21st 2018.

Terry Floyd - Myself and some neighbors consoled her. ... All of her 110 percent neighbors supported her.

York County Sheriff's deputies arrived to find Lana, who was in distress after her husband's apparent fall down stairs.

TERRY FLOOD [BODYCAM VIDEO]: She is on a guilt trip for not checking up on him.
OFFICER: Oh, no.
TERRY FLOYD - Just look at him to see if there are any signs of him falling.
OFFICER: OK. OK.
TERRY FLOYD - Everything looks OK?
OFFICER - Pretty much.

A friend and the officer who was on the scene comforted her.

LANA'S FRIEND [BODYCAM VIDEO]: This is a shameful situation.
SGT. DAY: No, not at all.

Nick French, a local police officer, was informed about Steve's sudden passing and rushed to the house.

Nick French... She... gave me an enormous hug and started to cry. ... I saw Steve right away when I walked up to his place. It was quite a shock. Steve was a close friend and I found it very hard to see him in such a vulnerable place.

Soon after 1 p.m. Coroner Sabrina Gast got a call reporting that Steve had passed away.

Sabrina Guest: I had a deputy coroner who responded to my home.

Gast claims her deputy did not see anything suspicious and believes the cause of death to be a heart attack.

Sabrina: She thought it was a natural death.

Nick French, an experienced investigator and cop, noticed some red flags in Lana's actions right away after she found Steve.

Nick French : She was a nurse and there were at least two phones. She should have called one of those phones. Also, why didn't she do CPR when the ambulance arrived?

He began making mental notes at that point.

Nick French Steve always had his smartphone with him. Always. It was his lifeline. We were unable to locate Steve's phone.

Nick also observed Lana's reaction to the deputy coroner's question about funeral arrangements.

Nick French Lana stated, "it's just to much right now." She buried her head in her hands and said that she didn't know.

The deputy coroner offered to take Steve’s body to the morgue to run some tests.

NICK FRENCH [BODYCAM VIDEO]: That's what I would do, Aunt Lana.

Nick French. She looked up and said, "That funeral home...the one right down the street...Let's take him there to have him cremated." It was so quick. She said, "I don't know what I'm going do." Then she said, "Let's have him cremated."

Nick wanted Kris to call him and tell him that their uncle had passed away. He claims Lana said she did not want Kris to be in that situation.

Nick French Kris is an adult. He's a big guy. Kris should choose that. ... I began to think that something was wrong. When she said no for the third time, and then yelled at her, I decided to walk upstairs and call Kris.

Peter Van Sant - Why should you be excluded?

Kris Phagan : This I can't tell. It continues to puzzle me to this day.

Kris was then named Rosie, Steve's sister in Florida.

Rosie Clayton -Leslie : I can still hear him crying. ... I couldn't talk. ... It was not real. It was not real.

Rosie was worried that she wouldn't be able to reach her brother by phone for three days before his death.

Rosie Clayton–Leslie: There were no responses. It was not like he had just cut off his communication. It was quite strange to me.

It was also strange to see what Nick found in Steve's upstairs room.

Nick French... The bedroom's state indicated that Steve was in the same bed for several days and that he couldn't get out. It was a combination of all the evidence we had seen that made it highly suspicious.

A FAMILY'S SUPICIONS MOUNT

Kris Phagan : I try to not go in the house too often. Those are the worst memories.

Kris Phagan's nephew Steve is a mixed emotion when he visits his uncle's house.

Kris Phagan : But out there is where we had fun.

Peter Van Sant - What was the house like in the best times?

Kris Phagan: Lots of fun. Steve making jokes, the children chasing the dogs, and Steve running.

One of his favorite memories is the July Fourth party Lana & Steve hosted just weeks before Steve's death.

Kris Phagan - Steve was always big for July 4th. He would have huge celebrations here... There'd be a dance floor right there. There were fireworks.

The couple looked happy and in love to most people.

Terry Floyd : I thought it was good. ... She kissed Steve on his forehead and said, "I love your."

Dr. Nan Saye was a veterinarian who cared for the dogs at Clayton Mansion.

Peter Van Sant - Did you see them together?

Dr. Nan Saye: No. I was curious as to why they were married. It was odd. The most surprising thing about it was that she didn't speak when he was present.

Two years later, Steve died from a strange accident in their bedroom. Lana claimed that she accidentally shot her husband with a crossbow in the head while he was asleep .

Kristi Olson: Steven himself said that it was an accident. Lana claimed it was an accident.

Amazingly, Steve's injury wasn't serious and the police didn’t file any charges.

Peter Van Sant - I don't know how much crossbows are in your bedroom. That seemed a little strange.

Dr. Nan Saye:

After that, Steve and Lana moved on. Kris received a call from Steve two months prior to his death. He confided that their five-year-old marriage was in serious trouble.



 

A COPYCAT CASE

Stacy and Josh Hunsucker were married for eight years. She died tragically from a heart attack. Stacy was a victim of heart disease and was fitted with a pacemaker.

KristiO'Connor They were high school sweethearts. They had two children together.

Stacy was once a paralegal and was then a preschool teacher. He was a paramedic and a flight doctor at Atrium Health in Charlotte, which is the largest hospital system in the area.

Kristi O'Connor reports that Josh's actions following Stacy's death raised eyebrows.

Kailyn MacDonald (babysitter) who cared for the children of Stacy and Josh after Stacy's passing, claims that Josh was actually dating Jennifer Elkins.

Kailyn MacDonald: I never saw him sad, ever.

Kailyn McDonald... he was very happy with his girlfriend. It was always Jen.

Suzie Robinson, Stacy's mom, saw this as a red flag. Another was when she found out that Josh had started collecting $250,000 in two policies of life insurance just 48 hours after Stacy's passing. Suzie called North Carolina Department of Insurance for assistance.

Mike Causey : Without Suzie, we may not have any evidence of this murder investigation.

Mike Causey, the commissioner of North Carolina Department of Insurance, was involved in Stacy’s case in May 2019 by his agents.

Mike Causey : The matter was referred to the criminal investigations' section. Initial reports by the local police stated that it was a natural death and had suffered a heart attack.

Stacy's body was cremated upon her husband's request.

Peter Van Sant - No autopsy.

KristiO'Connor: There is no autopsy. Joshua didn't want an autopsy because he didn’t want his wife to be cut.

The agents were able to get a big break when they found out that Stacy was an organ donor. A vial of blood was also stored and had been collected before Stacy was cremated. The blood was sent to toxicology screening.

Mike Causey : There were traces of poison... specifically THZ... which is a common chemical used in eye drops to remove the red.

Peter Van Sant - Have you offered any advice to authorities in the Hunsucker matter based on your own experience?

DemiGarvin: Yes, the presence of the Tetrahydrozoline at the reported concentration warranted further investigation.

Kristi O’Connor: He was eventually accused of poisoning her by using tetrahydrozoline.

Hunsucker was convicted of Stacy's murder on December 19, 2019, just 15 months after her death. His lawyer claims that his client is innocent and will vigorously oppose the allegations. He is released on bail.

Experts believe homicidal poisonings are going undiagnosed because they mimic natural illnesses and labs do not routinely screen them.

Peter Van Sant - Do you believe that this drug should be included in a basic screening in toxicology testing?

Demi Garvin: Yes.

Peter Van Sant - Do you feel the exact same?

Sabrina:

Sabrina Guest: It is so innocent. It's odorless, it's tasteless. It's available for purchase by anyone.

Johnson & Johnson, makers of Visine, released a statement saying they were "devastated" that anyone would use their product for such an evil act. Visine is clearly labeled as external use only and should not be swallowed.

Lana Clayton pleaded guilty to tampering food and drug and voluntary manslaughter.

She insisted that she had never intended to kill him.

LANA CLAYTON : I apologize to Steven's Family.
LANA CLAYTON - I impulsively added the Visine to Steven's drink, and I did so with the intention of making him sick and uncomfortable.

Lana was portrayed by her defense team as a victim suffering from PTSD due to past sexual abuse.

KristiO'Connor: The claims she made were that she had been sexually assaulted in her youth... but that was not reported to authorities... Her defense team then claimed that she was raped three times by servicemen when she entered the U.S. Air Force.

Rosie Clayton - Leslie: Steven's passing means that none of us can ever feel whole again.

Rosie prays for Stacy Hunsucker's mother to find peace.

Rosie Clayton -Leslie : In Spanish, there is a saying that "the blood cries for justice." ... I would love to meet the mother of the precious girl who was murdered using the same method... because I believe that her daughter's blood was calling out for justice.

Lana Clayton was not awarded any money from Steve’s estate.


 

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