Amber Hopkins, the 31-year-old expectant mother whose body was found dumped under a pile of debris in March, died from an accidental drug overdose, the medical examiner says.
But exactly how her body wound up covered in brush along the fence line of a vacant house on the city’s North Side remains a mystery.
An autopsy by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death accidental after toxicology results pointed to a lethal mix of fentanyl and methamphetamine. However, investigators could not determine where and when she died, according to information gathered through a public records request.
Hopkins’ mother said authorities told her that someone had administered a dose of Narcan — a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses — that day in an attempt to revive Hopkins.
“They said it wasn’t enough to bring her back,” said Danita Torrence. “Somebody got scared.”
The news offered little relief for the grief-stricken American Indian community that Hopkins was part of.
Though many had initially suspected foul play, relatives are still pained to think that those around her failed to call for help. Instead, her body was simply discarded outside.
“Clearly, she was put there,” said her aunt, Jaime Brown.
Minneapolis police agree that her final resting place was no accident.
“There is every indication based on evidence at the scene that her body had been moved, likely after her death,” said police spokesman John Elder. Investigators are trying to determine who committed the crime of improperly disposing of a body.
Hopkins had been missing for 10 weeks when, on March 26, a man rummaging through an abandoned lot in north Minneapolis spotted her boots under trash and debris that emerged as the snow melted.
Family members knew it was Hopkins, who had been homeless and struggling with heroin addiction. She’d lived with her boyfriend for several months at the sprawling encampment along Hiawatha Avenue but had recently begun squatting inside vacant homes on the North Side. She was last seen alive on Jan. 14.
Drug treatment specialists like Stephanie Devich can’t help but wonder what could have been. Had those around Hopkins known about the state’s Good Samaritan law, which provides immunity for anyone who uses Narcan or calls 911 to help a person who is overdosing, Hopkins might have survived, Devich said.
Outreach groups distribute thousands of lifesaving Narcan kits each year to reduce the risk of fatalities. At the Hiawatha encampment, drug use was so commonplace that six to 10 overdoses occurred each day, Devich said. Narcan kits are credited with reversing about 300 potentially lethal overdoses.
“Any lay person can be trained to use it,” said Devich, a counselor at the Brooklyn Park clinic Valhalla Place, which provides addiction and mental health treatment. A prescription is no longer required to carry the drug.
But potent street narcotics, especially those laced with fentanyl, often require several doses to revive users. An average overdose in Minnesota requires three to four doses of Narcan, Devich said. The worst she’s seen is eight.
Her organization offers free training on how to administer it, and she strongly advocates that everyone carry a kit.
“You never know when the opportunity may arise. People are overdosing at a much more rapid rate than we’ve ever seen before, especially in public places. Everyone should have it — like a Band-Aid,” Devich said. “It’s not gonna fix everything, but at least it will keep the person alive long enough to potentially get some help.”