Paramedic accused of fatally poisoning his wife with ingredient found in eye drops: Prosecutors

Joshua Hunsucker, has been charged with first-degree murder in his wife's death.

December 22, 2019, 6:02 PM

A North Carolina paramedic is accused of using an ingredient found in eye drops and nasal spray to cause the death of his wife in 2018.

Joshua Lee Hunsucker, 35, appeared in a Gaston County court Friday, where prosecutors said he gave a statement that they would consider to be a confession. His wife, Stacy Hunsucker, 32, died at her home in Mount Holly, North Carolina, on Sept. 23, 2018, according to her obituary.

A GoFundMe campaign created in 2015 by Suzanne Steinbroner, a friend of the couple's, stated that Stacy Hunsucker had been experiencing medical problems since February 2013, after she gave birth to the couple's first daughter. Five months later, a "devastating fire" at their home destroyed most of the couple's belongings, according to the crowdfund campaign.

In November 2014, after Stacy Hunsucker gave birth to the couple's second daughter, she was admitted to the hospital for a low heart rate and low blood pressure and placed in the ICU for several days, according to the GoFundMe.

PHOTO: Joshua Hunsucker, 35, appears in court in Gaston County, N.C., Dec. 21, 2019.
Joshua Hunsucker, 35, appears in court in Gaston County, N.C., Dec. 21, 2019.

Stacy Hunsucker was admitted to the hospital again in January 2015 for a low heart rate and went into cardiac arrest once she was settled into her room and was placed on a ventilator to help her breathe, the GoFundMe states.

"After many tests, the doctors are still stumped to what is [going] on," Steinbroner wrote. She later returned home on Jan. 29, 2015, and it is unclear whether her visits to the hospital continued after that date.

After she died, Joshua Hunsucker allegedly refused to allow an autopsy to be performed, stating that he did not want his wife "to be cut up," despite the fact that she was an organ donor, according to an affidavit filed in Gaston county on Thursday. He then had her body cremated immediately after her death, the court document states.

Once investigators discovered that Stacy Hunsucker was an organ donor for Lifeshare Donor Center, they obtained a blood sample that had been preserved and sent it a lab for testing. The results showed a high level of Tetrahydrozoline -- about 30 to 40 times higher than the therapeutic level, according to the affidavit.

The ingredient is found in eye drops and nasal spray and is not harmful when used as directed, but when ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, seizures and cardiac arrest, the court document states.

"That medicine has a dramatic effect on your heart and would cause heart stoppage or heart failure," North Carolina state attorney Jordan Green said in court on Friday.

PHOTO: Joshua Hunsucker, 35, appears in court in Gaston County, N.C., Dec. 21, 2019.
Joshua Hunsucker, 35, appears in court in Gaston County, N.C., Dec. 21, 2019.

Joshua Hunsucker told at least four different versions as to what he was doing before he found his wife not breathing and blue, according to the affidavit.

On the scene, he told police that he had gone outside to make sure his vehicles were locked "because there had been several reports of vehicle breaking and entering in the neighborhood," according to the court documents. Joshua Hunsucker allegedly told a friend that he had gone for a walk "to burn some energy" but told another friend that he had "gone out back to cut some wood for signs that he makes," the affidavit states.

Joshua Hunsucker also allegedly told Suzie Robinson, his wife's mother, that he was sitting at the kitchen table working on his computer, with his back to her, and that when he turned around, he saw her slumped over the side of the couch, according to the affidavit.

About two weeks prior to Stacy Hunsucker's death, an arrest of a nurse in York County, South Carolina, for which was accused of putting eye drops in her husband's water, causing him to experience seizures and go into cardiac arrest, was given high-profile media coverage in the area, according to the affidavit. Prosecutors pointed to "several points of similarity" between that cause and Josh Hunsucker's, considering he worked in the medical field and also had been home alone with his spouse at the time of death.

Joshua Hunsucker would have likely had access to medications containing Tetrahydrozoline as part of his medical supplies, the court document states.

"Josh Hunsucker is a flight paramedic for Medcenter Air for which his training and experience would certainly provide a thorough understanding of various types of medication and how those medications could react in the body," the affidavit states. "Additionally, his employment provides access to non-controlled substances which do not require logging or inventory control."

PHOTO: An undated photo released by Gaston County Sheriff's Office shows Joshua Lee Hunsucker.
An undated photo released by Gaston County Sheriff's Office shows Joshua Lee Hunsucker.
Gaston County Sheriffâ??s Office

Coworkers of Joshua Hunsucker expressed concern to investigators on how "unaffected" he was by his wife's death and "how quickly he had moved on with his girlfriend," whom he moved into the home he previously shared with his wife, according to the court documents. The new girlfriend "was visual" in his and his two young children's lives within six months of Stacy Hunsucker's death, the affidavit states.

In addition, Stacy Hunsucker's funeral was arranged and paid for by her parents, rather than her husband, the affidavit states. The two were high school sweethearts, ABC Charlotte affiliate WSOC reported.

"“I mean, she did not deserve for this to happen to her," friend Kelly Kreeger told the station. "She was a great mother. She was a happy person."

After Stacy Hunsucker's mother became aware of her son-in-law's new relationship, which had been ongoing prior to her death, she sent a referral to the North Carolina Department of Insurance based on the suspicious death of her daughter associated with her life insurance policy, according to the court documents. The life insurance policy provided a beneficiary payment of $200,000, or $100,000 with a double indemnity clause, and a second policy provided a beneficiary payment of $50,000. Joshua Hunsucker was the beneficiary, the affidavit states.

An arrest warrant was filed for Joshua Hunsucker on Thursday on a first-degree murder charge. He is being held at the Gaston County jail on $1.5 million bond, online jail records show.

In court on Friday, his defense attorney pointed to several people who attended his hearing to show support and emphasized the fact that he was a flight paramedic.

Joshua Hunsucker had been employed with Atrium Health's MedCenter Air unit since 2013, but he had been fired as of Friday, WSOC confirmed with the company. He had been under investigation for misconduct at work, Green said in court.

Joshua Hunsucker's defense attorney David Teddy declined to provide a comment to ABC News.