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Questions raised about what caused woman's death inside Berea church

(WKYT)
Published: Aug. 29, 2016 at 2:23 PM EDT
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Berea Police are conducting a death investigation after a woman's body was found inside a church on Saturday night.

Police and EMS were called to the

on Saturday night for a report of an unresponsive person, but when they arrived at the church on Chestnut Street, the woman was dead, said Lt. Jake Reed with the Berea Police Department.

Madison County Coroner James Cornelison identified the woman as Lindsay Poole, 33, of Anderson, South Carolina. Investigators have not said what caused Poole's death. Cornelison said they are waiting on results from an autopsy performed Monday.

No one has been charged in connection with Poole's death. Police are still investigating and have not released many details about the investigation.

"Just like with any other death investigation, we talked to everybody there, tried to determine what happened, obviously worked with the coroner - and it's still an active investigation, still ongoing," said Lt. Reed. "A lot of those details we don't want to put out there, just because it's active and we want to make sure we do the best investigation that we can, make sure we put all the puzzle pieces together before we put information out."

According to

the group offers ceremonies for members to "explore their inner consciousness."

Among those is an

. Ayahuasca is considered a psychedelic or hallucinogenic tea-like drink used "to induce altered states of consciousness for spiritual healing and enlightenment."

It has been used for centuries, but the brew

to

in

, particularly in places like South America, where tourists

.

Aaron Stewart Lewis Knapp, an artist who lives next door to the church on Chestnut Street, told WKYT's Garrett Wymer on Monday that the church has ayahuasca ceremonies all the time without any incidents. He says folks were shocked, then, when a woman died there on Saturday.

Knapp said he has seen person after person seek spiritual enlightment at the Oklevueha Native American Church of the Peaceful Mountain Way. On Saturday, though, he saw ambulances.

"They seemed to be doing CPR on a woman," Knapp said. "There was a couple people standing out front, all the neighbors came down. We were just trying to figure out what was going on."

A woman who attends Sunday services at the church said that the man who leads the church is "absolutely devastated" about what happened.

"I know them to be good-hearted people," Knapp said. "I know them to be honest people, helpful people."

There is no billboard, no sign, outside the church; there is not much there at all to draw attention to the place, located in a storefront along Chestnut Street. In fact, if it were not for the big glass windows (although tinted) offering a small glimpse inside, one might not even know what is there.

However, the incident at the church over the weekend may now thrust into the spotlight a spiritual practice that brings to the commonwealth people from all over the country.

"For me it was like putting on a pair of prescription glasses and suddenly being able to see, everything in the world looked different," Bethany, a woman from Houston, Texas identified by only her first name, told Louisville CBS affiliate WLKY-TV back in May.

Bethany was just one visitor to a Native American church in Campbellsville who came from another state for an ayahuasca ritual.

Ayahuasca is illegal in much of the United States,

, but certain states, including Kentucky, allowed registered Native American churches to use the plant-based drug as a sacrament.

Users say the hallucinogen brings enlightenment, but experts told WLKY that there are risks.

"The problems it could cause are dangerously high temperatures, dangerously high blood pressures, arrhythmias, seizures and death. That's really the bottom line," said Dr. George Bosse, medical director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center.

Consuming ayahuasca can also prompt immediate vomiting or diarrhea, Bosse said. Comedian Chelsea Handler famously

in an episode of her Netflix documentary series, "Chelsea Does."

"I realize many patients may do fine," Dr. Bosse said, "but on the other hand, I'm aware of all the organ system effects that could be quite problematic."

Despite the risks,

powers. One user told WLKY in May that he was an alcoholic before he tried it. Another said he is no longer addicted to heroin.

Some

for post-traumatic stress disorder, CNN reported in 2014.