TIME Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia’s Death Attracts Conspiracy Theorists

'My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas,' one former law enforcement official speculated

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend has attracted scores of tributes, questions about its impact on cases before the nation’s highest court, and now, its share of conspiracy theories.

The 79-year-old jurist died of natural causes, a judge has told The Associated Press, and there were no signs of foul play when he was found dead Saturday in his room at a luxury Texas resort ranch. Scalia’s family’s decision to forgo an autopsy, and a justice of the peace pronouncing him dead of natural causes without seeing the bod.

That provided enough grist for a former homicide commander for Washington D.C., who has no first-hand knowledge of the case, to speculate about the cause of Scalia’s death. William Ritchie, a former head of criminal investigations for D.C. police, wrote on Facebook that several aspects of how the death was handled didn’t add up, according to the Washington Post.

“My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas,” he wrote. “Did the US Marshal check for petechial hemorrhage in his eyes or under his lips that would have suggested suffocation? Did the US Marshal smell his breath for any unusual odor that might suggest poisoning?”

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, who pronounced Scalia dead, had told WFAA-TV on Sunday that the conservative jurist had been suffering several chronic conditions and underwent an MRI last week.

Concerns about a possible conspiracy theory mounted after the ranch’s owner told reporters Scalia was under a pillow when he was found dead. “We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bedclothes were unwrinkled,” John Poindexter, who owns Cibolo Creek Ranch, told the San Antonio Express-News. Poindexter also told the Los Angeles Times he had discovered the late Justice “in perfect repose in his bed as if he was taking a nap. His face wasn’t contorted or anything.”

Scalia’s death in an election year has upended the Republican party and could change the Supreme Court, which previously swung 5-4 conservative. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argues that Scalia’s successor shouldn’t be picked until a new president is elected, while President Obama said he intends to fill the position “in due time.”

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