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Tennessee man died of meth overdose before being eaten by bear, autopsy reveals

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A man who was partially eaten by a bear last year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park died of a meth overdose, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

The body of William Lee Hill Jr., 30, was discovered in an off-trail wooded area on September 11. Crews had been searching for him after he became separated from a friend four days earlier. Investigators said the pair were searching for ginseng in the park.

Search crews said they spotted an adult black bear feeding on Hill's body. Biologists were able to trap the bear and recover human DNA. After reviewing the evidence, it was determined that the bear should be euthanized.

Park officials released the following statement on September 12:

While the cause of Mr. Hill’s death is unknown at this time, after gathering initial evidence, consulting with other wildlife professionals and careful consideration, we made the difficult decision to euthanize this bear out of concern for the safety of park visitors and local residents.

Park rangers fatally shot the animal on September 16.

An autopsy report obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel revealed "extensive postmortem animal predation," but found no evidence that Hill was attacked by the bear while he was alive. The autopsy concluded that he died of an accidental meth overdose.

The report said that Hill had a history of drug use, and that there were syringes and other drug paraphernalia found near his body.

The man who went with Hill to search for ginseng was identified as Joshua David Morgan, 31, the News Sentinel reports. Morgan died by suicide on October 1. His obituary said he and Hill were best friends.


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