The rare disease that killed the Cook County Courthouse shooter appears to have been triggered by a common bacterial infection, his family reported this weekend.

Daniel Schlienz died Dec. 27 in the St. Louis County jail of a rare blood-clotting disease, but a strep infection was the underlying cause, his sister told the Duluth News Tribune. That was the explanation she received from Dr. Thomas Uncini, the St. Louis County medical examiner, she said.

Calls and an e-mail by the Star Tribune to Schlienz's sister, Bev Wolke of Grand Marais, weren't immediately returned Saturday afternoon. Schlienz's father, Gary, said he was informed of his son's infection but was awaiting the final autopsy report for more details.

"I don't know all what's going on yet," he said.

An untreated infection would have been particularly damaging for Schlienz, his relatives said, because he had much of his spleen removed in a surgery years earlier. A primary function of the spleen is fighting infection.

Schlienz, 42, had just been convicted of a sex crime Dec. 15 when he retrieved a gun from his car, re-entered the courthouse in Grand Marais, and shot Cook County Attorney Timothy Scannell and a witness in his case, Gregory Thompson.

He was treated at the jail for flu-like symptoms on Dec. 26, and was transferred to a Duluth hospital that evening when his condition deteriorated. He died the next day. The family later learned that the immediate cause of death was disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disorder that causes excessive blood clotting followed by severe internal bleeding.

Whether different or additional treatment of the initial strep infection might have saved Schlienz is unclear. After Schlienz's death, his sister complained that her brother was denied an extra blanket and cough medicine to help him cope with flu-like symptoms one night.

St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman told the News Tribune that he believes the jail staff "acted appropriately and did everything that we could for him." However, he told the newspaper he'd await further information from the autopsy before reaching a final conclusion.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744