Friends of Valerie Hamilton are furious today that her suspected killer claims she died of a drug overdose, arguing that the police chief's daughter did not use drugs and must have been tricked or coerced into taking the lethal dose.
"I think he drugged her," Robin Varner, one of Valerie Hamilton's closest friends, told ABCNews.com. "I'm not sure how, but I know he was buying her drinks at the bar and I feel like he deceived her and drugged her. When he realized it wasn't going the way he wanted it to, he panicked and dumped her."
"I don't want everyone's last memory of Valerie to be what this loser is saying about her," said Varner.
Varner is referring to comments made by suspected killer Michael Neal Harvey, who told reporters outside a New York courtroom Tuesday that the daughter of Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton died as a result of her own drug use.
"This is not murder. There is no murder at all," Harvey, clad in an orange jumpsuit and his hands cuffed, yelled at the press. "She OD'd in her sleep. She overdosed in her sleep."
Hamilton's body was found Sept. 19 stuffed in a locker. Harvey was the last person seen with 23-year-old Hamilton before she disappeared two weeks ago.
Harvey, 34, was arrested Monday in a Niagara Falls, N.Y., house that was littered with needles and evidence of heroin, and police said Harvey was high at the time of his arrest.
Hamilton's friends are defending her against Harvey's claim that she died of a drug overdose. A preliminary autopsy released Tuesday showed no evidence of physical trauma to Hamilton's body, and police said there was evidence of drug use.
"Even though the [autopsy] says all that, I still think Harvey forced it on her," said Varner. "He did this. For her to have never used drugs and then boom, they say she overdosed? That just isn't who Valerie was."
"For him to say, 'Oh yeah, she overdosed,' it makes me angry, I can't believe he'd be saying that," Varner said. "He has no reason to be talking, he has a huge criminal record. What right does he have to be trashing my friend who led this amazing life?"
Harvey is a convicted sex offender and has a history of drug-related arrests.
The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department said Tuesday that Hamilton left a bar willingly with Harvey the night she died, but at witnesses told investigators that at some point in the night Hamilton "appeared to need immediate medical attention" and urged Harvey to call a doctor.
"The suspect did not seek professional medical attention for Ms. Hamilton after being prompted by several independent witnesses to do so," the police statement said.
"The preliminary results do not indicate any sign of traditional physical trauma to Ms. Hamilton's body, i.e., gunshot wounds, stab wounds, strangulation, bludgeoning," the statement said. Results from Hamilton's toxicology report and sexual examination kit are still pending.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Hamilton called a friend, Ashley Barton, at 3 a.m. that night asking if she wanted to come over to Harvey's apartment complex to swim in a hot tub with her and a friend. Barton now assumes the other friend was Harvey.
Repeated messages left for Barton by ABCNews.com were not immediately returned, but Varner said that Barton was not in her group of close friends. Hamilton had met Barton just a month prior to her death, according to Varner.