By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming-raised country singer and songwriter Luke Bell died of an accidental fentanyl poisoning, according to a Tucson, Arizona, forensic pathologist.
Bell, 32, died last month after going missing in the Tucson area. He went missing Aug. 20 and his body was found six days later.
Bell was found in Tucson by passersby, unresponsive in a shaded parking structure, according to an autopsy report from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office.
Drug paraphernalia was found at the scene.
There were attempts to resuscitate him, the report says, citing markings on Bell’s body from defibrillators, endotracheal tubes and chest compressions.
Other than those markings, Bell showed no signs of internal or external injury.
Bell’s toxicology measured a blood-alcohol concentration of .076, according to the autopsy report. His blood contained 21 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter.
Sgt. Richard Gradillas, of the Tucson Police Department, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the investigation into Bell’s death – and the six days before it – is still open.
Gradillas said police are trying to discover where he was during his six days missing. He said he was uncertain how long Bell was deceased before he was found, but said officers deployed the life-saving measures observed in bodily markings by the medical examiner.
Bell was found by himself.
Gradillas said he wasn’t sure how much fentanyl Bell would have had to consume to achieve his toxicity level, but it doesn’t take much to seriously harm or kill someone.
“With fentanyl, something as small as a pen tip can kill you,” he said. “It is a deadly drug.”
Bell’s sudden death came as a surprise to country music fans across the nation, but especially in Wyoming, where he’s known by many.
After the news of his death broke, Bell was remembered as a charismatic young man who “lit up a room” whenever he entered.
Bell began playing bars in college, according to fellow Cody musician Kalyn Beasley, who grew up just down the street from Bell.
“Probably like a lot of us musicians, Luke wasn’t super interested in going to class,” Beasley previously told Cowboy State Daily. “So, he kind of took up gigging and playing in bars.”
Beasley said Bell also took up train-hopping while in Laramie, riding the rails to the next town, the next gig, the next adventure.
“There’s people that do that, you know,” Beasley said. “They ride trains and they write songs about it and sing old folk songs and live in an off-the-grid sort of way. And Luke was doing that.”
Bell spent the early part of his music career in Austin, Texas, before moving to Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 2010s.
“I didn’t know that he was musically gifted until he came back from living in Austin,” said high school friend Mike Vanata. “And he just came back with a plethora of songs that spoke to his storytelling. And I was just blown away.”
Bell released his first Nashville album “Don’t Mind If I Do” in 2014. In 2016, he was signed to the Thirty Tigers label, releasing his second self-titled album “Luke Bell.” He retreated from the music scene for a few years before his latest release, “Jealous Guy,” came out in 2021.