Karen Pletz’s death was a suicide, coroner says

The death of former medical school president and civic leader Karen Pletz has been ruled a suicide, a Florida county medical examiner said Friday.

Pletz, the 64-year-old ex-president of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, was found dead Nov. 22 in the Fort Lauderdale home of a family member.

Pletz died of acute intoxication from a combination of alcohol, the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam (sold under the brand name Xanax), and the narcotic pain relievers oxycodone and meperidine (brand name Demerol), said Darin Trelka, interim chief medical examiner of Broward County.

In 14 years as head of the osteopathic medical school, Pletz had taken on many civic leadership roles and had been honored as one of the area’s top businesswomen. But in recent years, criminal and civil allegations tarnished her reputation.

Late in 2009, she was abruptly fired from her medical school post amid questions about her handling of the school’s finances. The school filed a civil lawsuit against Pletz in March 2010 alleging that she used more than $2 million of the school’s assets for her personal benefit. She countersued, claiming she had been wrongfully terminated.

In April, a federal grand jury in Kansas City returned a 24-count indictment against Pletz, alleging that she had embezzled more than $1.5 million from the medical school, engaged in money laundering and falsified tax returns. A federal judge dismissed the criminal charges in December.