Autopsy reveals enlarged heart

Daily Pilot

IRVINE — The 20-year-old son of state Assembly candidate Donald Wagner suffered from a "severely enlarged" heart before he was discovered dead in Newport Beach on Sunday morning, according to a family member who spoke to the Daily Pilot.

An autopsy done Monday on Paul Wagner revealed the heart condition, said sister Kate Wagner, 23, adding that the exact cause of death has yet to be determined.

The coroner's office said that Paul's heart was measured at a cardiac circumference of 480, considerably higher than the normal range of 300, Kate Wagner said during an interview at the family home in Irvine.

On Monday night, the Orange County Coroner's office, which said it had conducted an autopsy, wasn't releasing results, pending a further investigation.

Donald Wagner is running for the 70th state Assembly District seat being vacated by Chuck DeVore. Wagner is on today's ballot, contesting the Republican Party primary against three other GOP hopefuls.

Paul Wagner had been involved in helping his father's campaign efforts.

"We want to finish [the campaign] in Paul's name and honor how much he believed in my dad," said his sister.

Paul Wagner was found dead in his SUV shortly after 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The car was in a garage in the 2700 block of Newport Boulevard, police Sgt. Spencer Arnold said.

Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year ago and was on prescribed medication, Kate Wagner said.

The family suspects that the medication may have played a role in Paul's death, although the results of a toxicity report will not be in until the end of the week, Kate Wagner said.

Although the investigation is ongoing, there were found no signs of foul play or suicide at the scene, Arnold said.

"We were worried about negative speculation," Kate Wagner said. "But anything people say — that's just not Paul. He was the most pure soul in the world."

Paul Wagner had just finished his second year at Purdue University and was visiting his family while on summer break.

He fervently loved "all things sports and sports-related," and had been recruited by several smaller colleges as a catcher while playing for Irvine's Northwood High School team, his sister said. He instead chose to go to Purdue without having a guaranteed spot on its baseball team.

Once at Purdue, he opted to focus on majoring in political science with minors in linguistics and communications. He eventually planned to go to law school.

"I actually just talked to Paul about this," Kate Wagner said. "Paul had an amazing college experience. He didn't regret not playing sports because then he would not have had the same experience."

Pau Wagner was proud of the university, frequently saying, "Purdue put a man on the moon."

He channeled that passion into fundraising and combined it with his natural charm and energy, garnering large donations.

Additionally, Paul Wagner was an active volunteer at the Indiana Veterans Home in West Lafayette, Ind. The many people he met there were "very near and dear to his heart," Kate Wagner said.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the veterans organization or to a scholarship fund being set up in his name through the South Orange Community College District.

The funeral is scheduled to take place at St. Thomas Moore Parish, 51 Market Place, Irvine, at 11 a.m. Friday.

"I have to believe — we all have to believe — that something, somehow, good will come from this," Kate Wagner said. "I obviously can't tell what it will be at this time, but I have to believe that something will come from Paul's goodness. I just can't go on living my life otherwise."

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