Surge reported in demand for drug that killed rocker Melvoin Police say some users are impressed by purity

July 16, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK -- Police said yesterday the death of a backup musician for Smashing Pumpkins, one of the country's most successful alternative rock bands, has spawned a macabre surge in sales of the drug that killed him.

Detectives said that since Jonathan Melvoin's death from an apparent overdose of heroin in a plush Park Avenue hotel Friday, increasing numbers of users have been trying to buy Red Rum, the brand of the drug that the 34-year-old keyboard player had used.

Police said that for some, Melvoin's death has turned out to be a commercial for the purity of the drug, and that is attracting buyers. But police called a news conference yesterday to warn of the consequences of the use of Red Rum, which they noted is "murder" spelled backward.

"We're trying to put out the word: This stuff is dangerous," said Capt. Denis McCarthy, commander of the downtown Manhattan narcotics district. "It has high potency. Don't shoot it."

"Whether it's people looking for the ultimate high, whether it's because of the name or because [Melvoin] used it, the fact is there is greater demand than last week," McCarthy said. "We find more and more people in the area saying they came down to get Red Rum. They know the purity level is pretty high."

McCarthy said the heroin probably was smuggled from Colombia.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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