BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — An Alabama businessman who died moments after being convicted on a child sex charge told jailers he swallowed cyanide then lapsed into unconsciousness, a medical official said Tuesday.
The head of Tuscaloosa's emergency medical service said William Thomas Moore Jr., 42, of Northport was dead before rescuers a few blocks away could arrive.
Moore was being booked into the metro jail in Tuscaloosa, where his trial was held, when he told officers he had taken something, said Travis Parker, emergency medical chief for the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service.
"Our guys said the jailer told them he said, 'I took cyanide,'" Parker said. "It was fast-acting whatever it was."
An autopsy was being performed but results were not immediately available. Parker said it was clear the man ingested something that killed him, but chemical testing was required to determine the exact substance.
Moore faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the conviction. Court records show he had a record that included arrests on drug charges and a conviction for selling drugs near a school in 1994.
Joe Basgier, one of two defense lawyers who were in court with Moore, said people in the gallery reported seeing the man place something in his mouth as soon as jurors announced Monday he was guilty of sexually abusing a child younger than 12. Moore claimed in court to only be taking his daily medication, said Lt. Dale Phillips, commander of the area homicide unit.
After the verdict deputies handcuffed the man, who walked out of court on his own, Basgier said. The attorney said he and partner Brett Bloomston learned what had happened at the jail within an hour.
"It was a horrendous thing to go through. His family is devastated," said Basgier.
Parker said medics carry an antidote to cyanide and used it on the man without any results. Workers found nothing in the man's mouth that could have been used as a container for poison, Parker said.
"His family is in the exterminating business. We don't know if he got something from that or not," Parker said.
Moore was indicted in December 2011 and had been free on bond while awaiting trial. Moore, who police said had worked for a time with the family pest control business, was acquitted on a sodomy charge before the guilty verdict was announced.
Moore's death came just weeks after a Missouri man used cyanide to commit suicide in court after being convicted on a charge of molesting a 14-year-old girl.
Basgier declined comment on whether Moore had discussed the possibility of suicide before or during his trial.
"The attorney-client privilege extends beyond death," he said.
Phillips said it could take weeks to obtain test results from a state laboratory to verify what type of substance was involved.