A synthetic drug, possibly designed to mimic cocaine or LSD, is suspected of contributing to the deaths of a teenage girl and a young man in Mankato last week at separate homes, and authorities are worried there is “more of this potentially deadly substance out there.”

Officers at each residence where the two fell ill recovered similar blue baggies covered with images of gold-colored crowns, police said in a statement Tuesday night.

“Investigators believe that these baggies may have contained a substance in a pill or powder form, possibly synthetic LSD or synthetic cocaine, commonly called 2-C,” the statement said. “There is concern that there may be more of this potentially deadly substance out there.”

The victims were identified by police as Louis N. Folson-Hart, 22, of Mankato, and Chloe L. Moses, 17, a student at Mankato West High School.

On the afternoon of March 5, police and other emergency personnel were called to a residence in the 100 block of Glenwood Avenue. Folson-Hart was found not breathing, police said. He was taken by ambulance from his apartment to a hospital and died.

“It was so senseless what my son went through,” said Marlis Folson, who just returned from her son’s memorial ceremony near Siren, Wis. “Police explained that it was C-2 that he had ingested. Someone gave him the pill.”

Folson said that a longtime friend of Folson-Hart’s was with him in his final moments.

“Within 4 minutes of [talking the pill], Louie started saying, ‘Oh, my God, oh, my God,’ ” Folson recounted.

The friend responded, “ ‘Throw it up, throw it up,’ ” Folson continued.

“He smoked weed,” the mother said. “I don’t know what possessed him to do this. It’s just so senseless to me.”

The morning of March 8, the script played out again, this time about a mile away on E. Pleasant Street, police said. Moses was having a seizure while home alone, and she too was taken by ambulance to a hospital. She was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis, where she died.

An e-mail from Mankato West administration to families said that Moses was removed from life support about 4:10 p.m. Monday.

Russian roulette

Authorities in Mankato are not aware of any other cases lately of people being stricken from the substance connected to these two deaths, police Cmdr. Daniel Schisel said.

State authorities haven’t seen problems associated with a blue bag with crown emblems, either. A website appears to sell 100 of the empty bags for $15.

State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans warned that officials can’t know for sure what the substance found in Mankato is until it is tested.

A range of new synthetic designer drugs began showing up in increasing numbers at the beginning of the decade. The number of items submitted to the state lab that tested positive for such substances rose from 359 in 2011 to 456 last year.

“Certainly it’s not going away by any means,” Evans said.

Designer synthetics have claimed several other lives in Minnesota.

Three years ago in Blaine, 11 teens and young adults were rushed to hospitals after snorting a synthetic drug called 2C-E. Trevor Robinson, 19, died after doctors removed him from life support. His friend Timothy LaMere pleaded guilty to supplying the substance, which he bought online, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Synthetic drugs are often packaged and sold as innocuous products including “bath salts” or “research chemicals” and touted as legal alternatives to cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances. But federal and state laws have been written to ban many of those chemically related drugs and their analogues, too.

Minnesota Board of Pharmacy executive director Cody Wiberg said Wednesday that he hadn’t heard of the particular packages found in Mankato. “If it turns out that it really is one of the 2-C analogues that caused these deaths, then whoever sold those drugs was very clearly illegally selling them, because they are schedule 1 [illegal] in this state,” he said.

Drug expert Carol Falkowski, chief executive officer of Drug Abuse Dialogues, listed in a report that exposures reported to the Hennepin Regional Poison Center for 2C-E and its analogues increased from 23 in 2011 to 35 last year. Synthetics classified as “bath salts,” however, decreased from 144 to 50 in that time frame.

Experts warn that the illegal synthetics may be made in overseas labs or in people’s homes and may never have been tested on people. Buyers can never be sure of what’s in the package.

“This is like playing Russian roulette,” Wiberg said. “You simply don’t know what you’re going to get.”

The Legislature is looking at ways to strengthen synthetic drug laws, including combating the supply by allowing the Pharmacy Board to issue cease-and-desist orders to businesses that sell them.

“We’d be able to get the product, have it analyzed, issue a cease-and-desist order to stop selling the product,” Wiberg said. They could also have the product destroyed at the owner’s expense, he said.

He was studying music

Folson-Hart, who graduated from Mankato East High School, was intending to enter Minnesota State University, Mankato, to study music.

“He was self-taught on keyboards,” Folson said of her son, adding that he also had taken voice lessons. “He was very good at it. Music was his thing.”

Mankato School District Superintendent Sheri Allen said that Moses was “a very good student. She was known as an artist. … Her family wanted it known about her enjoying and loving art.”

Cheryl Kohleriter said she got to know her niece pretty well when they both were at the funeral for the teen’s grandfather late last year in Mankato.

“She didn’t seem like a drug user, an addict,” Kohleriter said. “She was just a normal kid who was really cool, real funky like. To have her life cut short so fast is so stunning.”

Mankato police warned anyone with the substance to “not consume it, and do not sell it or provide it to anyone.”

If given to another person and death results, police continued, homicide charges are possible.


paul.walsh@startribune.com 612-673-4482

pam.louwagie@startribune.com 612-673-7102