Tyler Skaggs

Text Messages, Autopsy Results Discussed in Trial Over Tyler Skagg's Death

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Five more witnesses have testified in the trial of a former Los Angeles Angels employee and his alleged role in a pitcher’s death.

Eric Kay, former communications director for the Los Angeles Angels, is facing charges of drug distribution and drug conspiracy in Tyler Skaggs' 2019 death. Skaggs, who was a pitcher for the Angels, was found dead inside his Southlake hotel room on July 1, 2019, after the team had traveled from Los Angeles before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers.

Prosecutors are trying to make their case that Kay provided Tyler Skaggs with the drugs that eventually caused his death. On the third day of trial, the government called five witnesses to the stand including a corporal with the Southlake Police Department and an analyst with the U.S. Secret Service. Both primarily testified on data and messages exchanged through Skagg’s cell phone.

One, in particular, was an exchange on June 30 between Skaggs and Kay, who allegedly sent a message asking “How many?”. In return, Skaggs answered “Just a few…like five.” Exactly what they were referring to was not clearly identified in court during testimony.

Defense attorney Reagan Wynn told jurors at the beginning of the trial week that Kay entered Skaggs’ room on June 30, 2019, to find the pitcher sitting at a table with lines of powdery substances in front of him. Wynn said Skaggs told Kay a drug Kay didn’t recognize was something he had shared with Matt Harvey, who pitched for the Angels that season.

Dr. Marc Krouse, former Deputy Medical Examiner for Tarrant County, testified late Thursday. In his testimony, Dr. Krouse indicated Skagg’s death was ruled ‘accidental’ because there was no evidence anyone intended for him to die. A coroner’s report said Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the drugs fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.

During cross-examination, a defense attorney for Kay pointed out Krouse’s contract with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office was not renewed in 2021.

Haim Vasquez, former Dallas County Asst. District Attorney, said cases involving drugs and death can be challenging to take to trial. Vasquez is not associated with this case, but he said one of the elements prosecutors will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that Skaggs’ death is directly tied to drug ingestion. Who provided him the drugs is another element that would have to be proven, he said.

“In the toxicology report, we have that the deceased had fentanyl in his system. There is no connection made by the Medical Examiner on the cause of death. That connection was made by the U.S. Attorney later on,” he said. “For people who use drugs or issues with controlled substances, sometimes they have drugs coming in from many different places.”

Regardless of the verdict, he said this case could possibly have lasting implications.

“This case is going to open, in my opinion, a Pandora’s box again to an issue that’s been plaguing Major League Baseball with drug abuse,” he said. “It’s going to [open] many different potential people who had transacted drugs, might not lead to a death of a specific player, but might be involved in these transactions.”

Kay’s lead attorney has not commented on the trial outside of the courtroom this week, but he has claimed his client didn’t give Skaggs drugs the night before he died and there was no way to know whether the fentanyl Kay is accused of providing was the cause of Skaggs’ death at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square hotel.  

The trial will resume on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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