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San Diego

A Colombian woman extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking charges died of natural causes, the San Diego County coroner confirmed Monday.

Lieselotte E. Esser, 55, had been brought to San Diego on May 6 to face charges in a March, 1984, federal indictment that alleged she was a lieutenant in a drug smuggling operation headed by Czechoslovakian refugee Josef Kolek.

Kolek is serving a 10-year sentence for his conviction of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise.

Esser was discovered dead in her Metropolitan Correctional Center cell on May 25, said facility spokesman Ed James. She apparently died in her sleep.

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“The cause of death is cardiac related,” said Coroner David Stark. “She had coronary sclerosis and a coronary blockage.”

Stark said his office’s findings were reviewed Friday by Dr. Cesar Augusto Giraldo, director of the Medellin branch of the Forensic Institute of Colombia.

The Colombian Embassy asked permission through the U.S. Department of Justice to have Giraldo examine Esser’s body. Stark said Giraldo checked Friday for signs of trauma or physical injury to Esser’s body but found none.

“He concurs with the findings,” Stark said. “We provided photographs and slides for him to take back to Colombia.”

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Esser had pleaded innocent to charges of conspiring to import, possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana.


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