Family Questions If Salvia Is To Blame For Son's Fatal Jump

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeWPIXMiley Cyrus

Ryan Santanna leapt to his death from his family's 15th floor apartment balcony on Roosevelt Island Sunday. Early indications are that the 21-year-old was driven to jump after using the hallucinogenic herbal drug salvia although his family has questioned the accuracy of such accounts.

Santanna's grief-stricken sister Carolyn told PIX 11 News, "My brother is honestly my best friend and it's terrible that I have to lose him. He meant so much to everybody and it's just so sad that this tragedy is happening to my family because he really didn't deserve to go like that, or at all."

Carolyn added that "the police found a bag that was marked 'Salvia' was a little Zip Loc bag."

On Tuesday, PIX 11 News also spoke with the last person to see Ryan Santanna alive.

Speaking through tears in her Elmhurst apartment, Santanna's distraught former girlfriend Benazir Banali told PIX 11 News that Santanna had taken salvia and started acting strangely before suddenly pushing her away and taking a fatal leap off the balcony.

She says they talked about Miley Cyrus, who made national headlines after she was caught on camera apparently smoking salvia, the use of which did not appear to cause her any harm.

Salvia is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen in the world. It's a drug that has been banned or highly regulated in at least 23 U.S. states and 20 countries, but not New York. The drug produces mind-bending effects similar to LSD.

So where did Ryan Santanna get the Salvia that may have triggered his fatal leap? Banali told PIX 11 News they got it at a shop on St. Mark's place in Manhattan.

But in a startling new development, late Tuesday night Santanna's father spoke to PIX 11 News and raised questions about the veracity of Banali's statements, and about the sequence of events that lead up to his son's tragic death.

Lauro Santanna accused Banali, his son's ex-girlfriend, of "stalking" Ryan and suggested that her story of what happened was inconsistent and not an accurate retelling of events.

Santanna insisted his son's death was in no way a drug-induced suicide and said he was going to demand the Queens District Attorney's Office launch a full scale investigation in order to learn the truth of exactly what happened in the moments before his son died.

Funeral services for Ryan Santanna are planned for Friday.

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