St. Louis official: Inquiry finds no wrongdoing in death of Cora Faith Walker

Autopsy report to give final word on Walker, 37, who collapsed March 11 in hallway of St. Louis hotel

By: and - March 21, 2022 4:07 pm

Daniel Isom, director of the St. Louis Public Safety Department, speaks Monday during a briefing on the death of former state Rep. Cora Faith Walker. (Screen shot from online briefing)

There is no evidence of foul play in the death of former state lawmaker and St. Louis County official Cora Faith Walker, and there is no continuing investigation, St. Louis Director of Public Safety Daniel Isom said Monday.

Walker died March 11 at age 37. News of her passing sent shockwaves through the St. Louis political community, where she was seen as a champion of health equity, reproductive rights and social justice. She was a health care attorney and worked on issues such as Medicaid expansion and public health reform.

Isom, speaking to reporters via zoom, laid out a timeline for the death and said much of what is known comes from video obtained from the Live by Loews hotel in downtown St. Louis.

Those videos, viewed under a warrant, show Walker came out of a hotel room shortly before 9 a.m. on March 11 and collapsed. She was found by a person who called 911 and tried to revive her, Isom said.

The first medical personnel arrived at 9:04 a.m., an ambulance got there nine minutes later and she arrived at 9:46 a.m. at St. Louis University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:58 a.m.

Walker was memorialized Friday amid an outpouring of grief and praise for her work in government. Isom said Monday that he decided to speak publicly about the details of Walker’s death in order to rebuff rumors that have circulated about the circumstances in the hours before she collapsed.

“Unfortunately, many have jumped to conclusions based on rumors, innuendo and allegations with no facts to support the reporting,” Isom said. “It’s a sad commentary for individuals who manufacture controversy out of tragedy.”

Cora Faith Walker, 1984-2022, is shown in her official portrait as a member of the Missouri House. (Missouri House of Representatives photo)

Walker, a state lawmaker from 2017 to 2019, was chief policy officer for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. She was also close friends with St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.

“She was a fixture in the St. Louis region, a powerful advocate for her community, and a fiercely loyal friend to all who knew and loved her, especially to Mayor Jones,” according to a statement from Jones’ office.

Among her legislative efforts, Walker successfully pushed to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers in need of substance abuse treatment and championed legislation to promote the use of trauma-informed programs.

Aside from her efforts in Jefferson City, she was known as an “ardent advocate” for women, children, and the underserved in her community of Ferguson, according to a statement from her family.

“While we feel the loss of Cora deeply, we are comforted in knowing that Cora’s community service empowers and impacts the lives of so many families,” her family stated. “We know her work will continue through the service of others.”

She was not known to have long-term health problems, Isom said Monday, and there were no injuries that would account for her demise.

“Chief Hayden and I agree that a 37-year-old’s sudden death is unusual,” Isom said, referring to St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden.

On the day before she died, Walker helped Jones celebrate her 50th birthday and, about midnight entered the hotel room with another person who Isom did not identify. That person left about 7 a.m., about two hours before Walker is seen on video walking out of the room, Isom told reporters Monday.

The person has been interviewed but Isom did not reveal any details about what they told investigators. The inquiry into the death has been handled by the St. Louis Police Department, he said, and included speaking to the person who found Walker and viewing “many hours of hotel video recording.”

Isom said he was trying to provide information to counter media reports that he said are inaccurate. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial over the weekend accused “top political leaders” of a cover-up and an article published Sunday reported that the St. Louis Fire Department had sent its incident report to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The St. Louis police officer who conducted the inquiry is a member of a DEA-led task force but the federal agency is not investigating, Isom said.

KSDK-TV in St. Louis reported Monday that the preliminary toxicology report on Walker was negative, but Isom would not confirm that.

“There were no signs of trauma or injury and the toxicology report right now is not final, it is inconclusive,” he said.

Isom referred reporters to the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s office for more information. 

The final autopsy report will be available in eight to 12 weeks, Tara Rick, executive director for operations in the
medical examiner’s office wrote in an email to The Independent.

No information has been received about toxicology, Rick wrote.

“The Medical Examiner has received no toxicology report as of yet,” Rick wrote. “There is no preliminary toxicology report.”

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, former chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, is asking the council to pass a resolution seeking an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Fitch could not be reached Monday morning for comment.

Isom said there is no reason to investigate further unless the autopsy report raises questions.

“There’s nothing that has come up that would raise suspicion at this point,” he said.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

Rebecca Rivas
Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas is a multimedia reporter who covers Missouri's cannabis industry. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, including more than a decade as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation’s leading African-American newspaper.