Margaret Zamudio, a former University of Colorado at Boulder faculty member who made headlines a decade ago for drug use, being fired from CU and suing the school, died on Christmas night in Laramie, Wyo., and alcohol has been listed as a contributing factor in her death.
According to Mitch Cushman of the Laramie Police, apparently Zamudio had gone outside her home around midnight to smoke a cigarette, slipped on her steps, hit her head, was knocked unconscious, got covered by snow and froze to death. She was found at noon the next day with a cigarette and matches, Cushman said.
Toxicology reports released this week show that her blood alcohol content was 0.12, well above the 0.08 threshold used to charge individuals with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Albany County Coroner Tom Furgeson told Boulder Weekly that the temperature, with the wind chill, was about 26 degrees below zero that night. He said he listed alcohol as a contributing factor to the cause of death, “hypothermia due to exposure,” because alcohol thins the blood, dilates the capillaries and causes the body to shed heat faster.
Zamudio’s blood and urine tested negative for all other drugs except for amphetamines, but Furgeson said the latter is often recorded as a false positive when samples are drawn a significant time after death.
Zamudio had a controversial history at CU. In 2000, she claimed that she was supplied with heroin at a 1998 party of sociology department faculty, which she said prompted her to return to drug use after being clean for 13 years.
But a months-long Boulder County Drug Task Force investigation into rumors of illicit drug distribution in the department was discontinued in fall 2000 after investigators could not verify the claims.
Zamudio, an assistant professor, was arrested on suspicion of selling cocaine in November 2000. As a result, Zamudio was barred from campus and her salary was suspended. But in early 2001 the felony charges were dropped by the prosecutor, who cited problems with witness reliability and the admissibility of evidence, and Zamudio pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. CU reinstated her with back pay, but she filed a civil suit against the university in February 2001, alleging that CU had discriminated against her on the basis of race and disability, created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her.
Zamudio, who was Hispanic, was dismissed from her CU position later that year, and filed another lawsuit against the university in July 2002, challenging the process CU used to get rid of her.
Zamudio had worked in the sociology department at the University of Wyoming since 2002 and received tenure last spring. She also taught in the Chicano Studies and Women’s Studies programs. Her book Critical Race Theory in Education will be published this year by Routledge.
A memorial service was held on Jan. 15 at the University of Wyoming Art Museum. A scholarship was established in her name. Contributions can be sent to the Margie Zamudio Memorial Fund at the UniWyo Federal Credit Union, 1610 East Reynolds St., Laramie, WY 82072.