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Emily Welker, Published May 21 2013

Autopsy shows suspect in Moorhead rape died of drug overdose

FARGO – Initial autopsy results showed a suspect in a Moorhead rape who died unexpectedly in his home here two weeks before his trial died from an accidental drug overdose, police said on Tuesday.

Richard Lee Haaland Jr., 46, was found dead in his north Fargo home April 16.

Haaland had pleaded not guilty to raping and beating a Moorhead woman in her car in her downtown parking lot in the early morning of Sept. 6, a violent attack police said left her with a jaw broken in three places.

Pat Claus, a deputy police chief in Fargo, said Tuesday that a report from the state medical examiner showed Haaland died of combined opioid and antihistaminic drug poisoning, in lethal quantities in combination with prescription-type drugs.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers such as oxycodone as well as heroin, morphine and methadone. Antihistamines are commonly used in cold and allergy medications.

The medical examiner ruled the manner of death was accidental, Claus said.

The father of the woman who reported being raped by Haaland told The Forum he believed the alleged rapist – who had a prior sexual assault conviction form nearly 30 years ago – committed suicide after learning that DNA tests on a rape kit collected from his daughter linked Haaland to the evidence.

Speaking generally, Claus said even if investigators do suspect suicide in an unattended death ruled to be accidental, police don’t usually dispute the ruling.

“We investigate death scenes to make sure we’re not missing a homicide,” said Claus, adding that neither accidental deaths nor suicides were crimes.

Claus said Haaland’s case remains open.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541