The San Diego Union-Tribune reported today that a Mexican law-enforcement official has confirmed that missing San Diego clergyman Charles Lanier found Wednesday in an apartment, died from an overdose of heroin.
Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, the Baja California Attorney General, said Thursday that an autopsy conducted by the Baja California Medical Examiner's Office determined the Rev. Charles Lanier's cause of death.
Manjarrez also confirmed that Lanier had rented an apartment with another man, also a U.S. citizen, about a mile from the border.
The Rev. Charles Lanier, pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in City Heights, was reported missing by his family Feb. 18. His black 2007 Cadillac CTS was found in a San Ysidro parking lot near the Mexican border Feb. 22.
Investigators believe Lanier, 51, died of a self-inflicted drug overdose, said a source at the Baja California Attorney General's Office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The source said a syringe was found near Lanier's body.
Lanier had been dead for more than a day when he was discovered, the Baja California source said. The Baja California Medical Examiner's Office is expected to conduct an autopsy today.
Lanier's family told San Diego police that he left his 35th Street apartment the afternoon of Feb. 15, headed for a nearby Albertsons. Investigators said Lanier failed to return or to show up for several scheduled appointments, and detectives with the missing persons unit were assigned to the case.
Baja California law enforcement officials said Lanier had been renting an apartment on Calle Segunda near Madero in Tijuana since November 2007.
Neighbors passing Lanier's third-floor unit saw the door ajar and him lying face-up on the floor about 9:30 a.m. yesterday.
Mexican State Judicial Police notified San Diego police that Lanier had been found dead, San Diego homicide unit Lt. Terry McManus said in a written statement.
The graffiti-covered apartment building, between a pharmacy and a Chinese restaurant, sits on a busy street in a gritty section of downtown Tijuana about a mile from the border. A neighbor said Lanier had a male roommate and paid $200 a month for the apartment.
Last night, Louis Clark, who said he assisted Lanier at Unity Fellowship by running errands, said the church would be open for those of the 30-to 40-member congregation who wanted counseling.
Clark, a Unity Fellowship member for about six years, said he felt “numb and disbelief” when Lanier's sister told him about the death. He described Lanier as a compassionate pastor who frequently provided food for churchgoers and helped them pay their rent.
“He always talked about love; he never talked against anything,” said Clark, holding back tears. “Everybody right now is in a state of shock.”
Clark said Lanier was a former drug addict who kicked the habit about 15 or 16 years ago and began attending a Unity church in Los Angeles. Lanier was ordained as a Unity pastor about seven years ago and opened the church on University Avenue, Clark said.
Lanier is survived by his mother and at least one sister in Los Angeles, where he grew up, Clark said. He said plans will be made for a memorial service.