The reunion of old friends on the Caribbean island of Anguilla promised a relaxed, fun-filled start to 2019.
In 2018, Casey MacPherson-Pomeroy and his wife, Barbara, had made the island paradise their home while Casey, a sometime-actor in Los Angeles who attracted friends easily, enrolled in medical school there. To celebrate New Year’s Eve, they were joined that December by two of Casey’s childhood buddies, Caleb Guillory and Chuck Gros, along with their wives.
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But before midnight on Dec. 31, two of the men would be dead.
What happened to them was muddied by bare-bones police reports as well as a series of statements Barbara allegedly made to friends and relatives that, some say, raise more questions than answers.
Casey and Caleb both were poisoned, the island’s coroner said, by a lethal dose of methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA, street name Sally) and cocaine, even though neither man was known to use drugs.
Caleb’s death certificate also noted that he had suffered from asphyxia, strangulation and chest compression; Casey’s cited seizure and cardiac and pulmonary distress.
For more about this strange story of shattered friendships, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
As laid out by Barbara’s attorney, Marshall Whitney, in a Nov. 20, 2019, letter regarding her claim to Casey’s life insurance policy, Barbara and the two men had stopped at an outdoor beach bar on the night of Dec. 30 and bought a single rum-and-Coke that was left unattended while they went looking for Casey’s lost flip-flop. All three of them drank from the same cup, which they then carried back to MacPherson-Pomeroy’s apartment.
At 9:49 p.m., according to police, Alisha Gros called to report that “one of her friends [was] not breathing.” Police and EMTs arrived to find Caleb, motionless on the living room floor. He was already dead. Casey was in a bedroom experiencing a seizure, and later died at a hospital.
Barbara, who says she also became sick from the drink, “feels this was no accident and that someone intentionally tainted” the beverage, her attorney says in the letter.
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But after being taken to the hospital and then turned over for detention for nearly three days — Barbara told friends in an email that there was an allegation of manslaughter, but no record of a criminal charge or dismissal could be turned up — the other four friends were released. They left the island, and the bodies of the two deceased men were cremated.
Since then, all have refused to return to Anguilla to tell what they know after the local coroner belatedly opened an inquest last fall. Casey’s sister, Debanee MacPherson-Udall, and Caleb’s uncle, George Guillory, both hope the men’s wives will eventually provide more concrete answers about their loved ones’ untimely deaths.
“The longer it goes,” George tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, “the more convoluted it gets.”