May 24 casts a dark cloud over Slipknot fans, affectionately called maggots, and bandmates alike. The masked metal outfit tragically lost one of their own on this day in 2010 when founding member and bassist Paul “The Pig” Gray was found dead in a hotel room near a scattering of pills and a hypodermic needle.
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The story behind Gray’s death, however, does not end with an overdose. It goes much deeper than that.
On This Day in 2010
In the late morning of May 24, 2010, Gray was found dead at a TownePlace Suites Hotel in Urbandale, Iowa, near the group’s hometown of Des Moines. He was 38 years old. According to the Des Moines Register, a hotel employee went to check his room after receiving a call from the bassist’s mother saying she could not reach him by phone. The worker found his body hunched over in a corner of the room and called 911.
“We believe it’s a drug overdose,” someone can be heard saying on the 911 call, later adding, “There’s a hypodermic needle next to the bed here.” Pills were also found in the room. The worker reportedly said Gray’s hands and legs were purple, telling the operator he appeared to have been dead for a while.
An initial autopsy, per USA Today, confirmed this. Gray had been dead for several hours before his body was found. The report also ruled out foul play or trauma, but could not determine the cause of death as toxicology results were needed. Gray’s death was eventually deemed an accidental overdose of morphine and fentanyl, MSNBC reported nearly a month after his passing. The autopsy also revealed signs of significant heart disease.
Police spokesman Sgt. Dave Disney explained there was no evidence showing Gray had a prescription for the drugs found in his body. At the time of the MSNBC report, police were attempting to find out how Gray had gotten them.
“There is no evidence that a doctor prescribed either one of those substances,” Disney said, alluding to possible charges.
Doctor on Trial
Two years after Gray’s death, an Iowa physician, Dr. Daniel Baldi, was put on trial for seven counts of the involuntary manslaughter of his patients, the Slipknot bassist being one of them. Baldi, a pain-medicine specialist, was accused of prescribing painkillers to his patients in large amounts, the New York Daily News reported.
According the outlet’s report, prosecutors claimed the doctor was criminally negligent and reckless in knowingly prescribing drugs to patients struggling with addiction. Baldi’s attorneys denied those accusations, saying his patients abused the prescriptions by taking more than what was prescribed or by mixing them with other substances.
The bassist’s widow, Brenna Gray, testified at the trial, claiming the doctor had prescribed her late husband the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, knowing he was addicted to the prescription drug.
Baldi, however, was acquitted of the manslaughter charges in late 2012 and was allowed to resume the practice of medicine, the Des Moines Register reported after the trial.
The day after Gray’s passing, his Slipknot bandmates held a formal press conference in their native Des Moines. All of them made a rare unmasked public appearance. The band members did not take questions, they just paid tribute to their friend. Gray’s wife, Brenna, and his brother, Tony, were also present to honor him and his memory.
“The only way I can sum up Paul Gray – is ‘love’,” frontman Corey Taylor said. “That’s what he’s left behind for us—is absolute love. I will miss him with every fiber of my heart as will everybody at this table; and everyone who knew him. He was the best of us.”
A fellow founding member, Shawn Crahan, called Gray “the essence of the band,” saying “the world is going to be a different place without him.”
Photo by Naki/Redferns