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Contaminated cocaine killed 'Amazing Race' producer, police say

The mysterious death in Africa of a reality TV show producer is turning the spotlight on the very real dangers of producing reality shows in remote locations around the world. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

KAMPALA, Uganda -- An American television producer found dead on a hotel balcony in Uganda last week died after taking contaminated cocaine, police and a private investigator said on Saturday.

An official toxicology report confirmed the narcotic was in Jeff Rice's blood, dispelling initial suspicions the father of two known for his work on the U.S. show "The Amazing Race" had been poisoned by attackers.

Rice, who was found slumped over a table bleeding through the nose and mouth, died of asphyxiation, a post mortem showed. Drug users who fall unconscious risk inhaling vomit.


"Rice ... used cocaine which had lethal additives and that's what killed him," Uganda police spokesperson Asuman Mugenyi told Reuters.

Brad Nathanson, a private investigator and friend of Rice, said he had been shown the toxicology report by police and there was no evidence of foul play in Rice's death.

"In fact it was as a result of buying bad drugs, cocaine to be specific ... it was a bad concoction," Nathanson told reporters.

"I have read the toxicology report ... it shows that there were small traces of cocaine in their blood and urine," he said, adding he had traveled to Uganda as a friend of the Rice family following rumors he had been poisoned, and not for payment.

Rice's assistant, identified as Kathryne Fuller, was found unconscious when Rice's body was discovered Feb. 18 at the Serena hotel in the capital, Kampala. She is now reported to be conscious but paralyzed down the right side of her body.

Early on, there had been speculation that the two had been poisoned, then that they might have been forced to consume the drugs, because of the high amount of cocaine in Rice's stomach. NBC News contributor Clint van Zandt said on the "TODAY Show" on Saturday that it seemed unlikely that Rice would have willingly taken that amount of cocaine. 

If Rice and Fuller were believed to have voluntarily consumed the drugs, Fuller could be prosecuted under Uganda's drug laws.

Ugandan police said on Saturday they had arrested a man who confessed selling drugs to the pair who had been in the east African country working on a documentary.

Fuller's father said he was "disappointed, sad" but would support his daughter, a South African.

"We all do stupid things in life. Unfortunately this is a large mistake but we can't exactly crucify her," Stewart Fuller said.

Fuller's family hopes to move her to South Africa for treatment.

Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report from Reuters.

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