TAMPA — The family of four, two of them elementary school-age children, had dinner on Monday night, a nice meal of bottom round steak.
Then they began hallucinating, so bad they called 911, then rushed to the hospital themselves.
On Friday, Tampa police announced why: The meat had been laced with LSD.
The family bought the meat from the Wal-Mart at 1501 N. North Dale Mabry Highway, just north of Interstate 275, but police said they don't yet have any idea when or where the meat became tainted with the hallucinogen.
“The family has no idea where this may have come from,” Police Chief Jane Castor said. “There is no indication of any involvement on the part of the family. It's a very dynamic investigation that is in its initial phase.”
“Everything is on the table right now,” Castor said. “We're not going to speculate on any theory. We're going to investigate everything from top to bottom to ensure that we figure out where this came from.”
The incident started at around 9 p.m. Monday when Ronnie Morales, 24, of 2744 Bel Aire Circle, Tampa, began to feel sick at his home after dinner, Castor said.
His symptoms quickly worsened. The family called 911, but because they live just blocks from St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, his girlfriend, Jessica Rosado, who was nine months pregnant, drove him to the hospital.
When they arrived, Rosado began to feel sick as well. Both were hallucinating and had rapid heart rates and dizziness, Castor said.
Soon afterward, the children, 7-year-old Elyana Serrano, and Rayna Serrano, who turned 6 on Friday, also started to hallucinate and feel ill.
Morales and the two girls received tracheal intubation and were hospitalized. They were released Wednesday in good condition, Castor said.
“The fact that they had to be intubated is very serious,” Castor said. “Timely medical attention was in need.”
Doctors at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital induced labor in Rosado, 31, who gave birth to a baby boy. Mother and baby were both released Thursday from the hospital in good condition, Castor said.
The family declined to comment on Friday.
Tampa police detectives are investigating along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Florida Department of Agriculture, the Hillsborough County Health Department and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.
Wal-Mart has been cooperative with the investigation, Castor said.
Wal-Mart has been working with investigators and removed all the bottom round steak from its shelf, the company said in a statement.
“Like everyone else in the community, we are deeply disturbed about this situation and are taking it very seriously,'' company spokeswoman Dianna Gee said in the statement. “We want answers and we're committed to working with officials to get to the bottom of this. We know our customers expect safe, quality food and we require our suppliers to meet the highest of food safety standards.''
Gee said the company has contacted its meat supplier and was told there had been no reports of similar incidents. She said the store also is reviewing its surveillance video “to see if we can find any information that might assist in the investigation. At this point, we're not aware of any suspicious activity.”
Police investigators took the oven from the home and the remantns of food the family had eaten Monday night. The family only had lived in the home two days and it was their first home-cooked meal there, Castor said.
Investigators aren't aware of any other cases in the area involving meat laced with LSD, Castor said.
“We have no information to indicate that this is anything other than an isolated case,” Castor said.
Dawn Thomas who was shopping at the Dale Mabry Highway Walmart on Friday night, said she was disturbed by the incident.
“This is sickening,” she said. “I don't know how somebody in good conscience could have done that. Now you have children and an entire family affected.”