ST. LOUIS – Former state legislator Cora Faith Walker has died of heart disease; no illicit drugs were found in his body, the city medical examiner said Wednesday.
Walker, a senior St. Louis County official, died March 11 after spending the night at the Loews Hotel in Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis. She was 37 years old.
The hotel was the site of an after-party for some people who had attended a March 10 50th birthday party for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones.
Public safety officials said that after spending the night with another person at the hotel, Walker left the room shortly before 9 a.m. and collapsed in the hotel hallway. City EMS employees responded at 8:55 a.m. and then took her to SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:58 a.m.
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The St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office previously reported that it found no signs of trauma or injury.
On Wednesday, St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham said Walker died of heart disease, specifically nonischemic cardiomyopathy.
“It’s heart disease, and she had some sort of heart rhythm disorder,” Graham said.
Hotel security tape, Graham said, showed Walker appeared to be in physical control as she left the hotel room.
“She was walking down the hall in high heels, in control and no sign (of a problem) and then collapsed,” Graham said. “Then she leaned against the wall, slipped and made a slight movement.”
Graham said death was likely immediate, as she was completely unresponsive within 5 to 10 seconds of sliding to the ground.
The only drugs found in his system were drugs prescribed for a condition he declined to specify. He said the amounts of those drugs prescribed were consistent with responsible use “and had nothing to do with his death.”
Although he described Walker’s heart condition as “fairly mild”, he said the cause of death was no surprise.
“Most 37-year-olds don’t die suddenly, and in the world at large that’s unusual,” he said. “But in the forensic world, we see this all the time.”
Walker was St. Louis County policy director, former Democratic state representative, and advocate for reproductive health care and rights. She won Missouri’s 74th District seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in November 2016, unopposed. She also ran unopposed in 2018.
In 2016, Walker accused Steve Roberts, now a state senator, of raping her in her apartment. Both were running for the state legislature at the time. Prosecutors declined to press charges and Roberts, who insisted the sexual encounter was consensual, sued her for defamation. She then sued Roberts.
The case, settled in 2019, resurfaced shortly after Walker’s death when Roberts released the terms of the settlement between the two – an agreement that prohibited Walker from saying Roberts assaulted her.
In an online press conference last month, St. Louis Director of Public Safety Dan Isom denied that Walker’s death was being investigated by federal authorities, even though he said the case was assigned to a city detective on a Drug Enforcement Agency task. Obligate.
Isom said that task was given to Chief of Police John Hayden, who declined to be interviewed or answer any questions submitted about the case.
Earlier this month, sources told the Post-Dispatch that Walker’s personal effects were turned over to a DEA representative and U.S. Attorney’s Office staff interviewed employees of the toxicology department at the St. Louis University Hospital regarding the tests performed on Walker. The newspaper reported in March that the St. Louis Fire Department submitted its EMS incident report, upon request, to a DEA representative.
Asked about the investigators with ties to the federal government, Isom said the information came from officials who “don’t understand the jurisdiction.”
Isom also admitted that he did not know if the detective assigned to the DEA shared his information with other agencies.
Isom confirmed that no police ever entered the hotel room in which Walker spent the night and that no evidence was taken from that room.
Because of Jones’ close friendship with Walker, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch introduced a resolution, still pending on the county council’s agenda, asking an independent body to law enforcement to investigate the county employee’s death.
Fitch was a former homicide detective for the St. Louis County Police before serving as department head for several years.
Prior to her time in the Legislative Assembly, Walker worked as a public health and policy lawyer. In the House, Walker served on a budget committee dealing with health issues. She secured a $1 million increase in funding for community health worker patient outreach. And she advocated for a $10 million line item to improve how Medicaid providers communicate with each other to achieve better patient outcomes.
Earlier this month, Missouri lawmakers proposed a plan to create a “Cora Faith Walker Doula Training Program,” to honor Walker’s advocacy for health care for women and infants.
At a memorial service a week after Walker’s death, Jones remembered her close friend saying, “You saw the good in everyone even when they couldn’t see it in themselves.”
Rep. American Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, Walker remembered on the floor of the House of Representatives.
“Above all,” Bush said, “she has always stood up for what is right, for herself, for her loved ones, for her neighbors, for St. Louis and for Missouri.”