Toxicology reports reveal Femme Fatale guitarist od’d on meth


March 21, 2006

At one time in his life, Bill D’Angelo wore spiked bangs several inches high and pants tighter than a banana peel.

He had guitar skills vicious enough to take his Albuquerque heavy-metal band, Femme Fatale, onto the 1988 Billboard charts and on a tour of Europe.

He also had a drug habit that eventually killed him.

Though his parents suspected as much, it took the state toxicology lab four months to confirm that methamphetamines contributed to his death – even though the lab was working overtime to erase its backlog of cases.

His father, Russell D’Angelo, said the long wait made the situation worse. “It took so long. . . . They said they would have it (finished) one weekend, then they didn’t. We just wanted to know. We had to just know.”

Russell and his wife, Joann D’Angelo, suspected their ex-rocker son used drugs but weren’t sure until last weekend when they finally learned what killed him.

The 43-year-old died Nov. 21 from complications of methamphetamine overdose.

The state’s lab in charge of toxicology reports took until early February to finish tests, but then had to re-run them. Autopsy physicians said the negative results didn’t match other evidence.

A second toxicology test, completed last week, revealed methamphetamine in D’Angelo’s system.

The family was highlighted in a Tribune story Jan. 24 about a backlog in the toxicology lab as long as eight months. Without the test results, the Office of the Medical Investigator couldn’t issue death certificates, leaving families such as the D’Angelos in limbo.

And the couple were waiting for two reports: one for Bill D’Angelo and one for their oldest son, Russell D’Angelo Jr., who was killed in a car crash in August.

The D’Angelos still haven’t received the toxicology report on Russell Jr., but aren’t concerned because his cause of death was obvious.

Bill D’Angelo’s case, however, required toxicology tests to learn what killed him. At the time of the story, the state toxicology lab said his case was one of the first to benefit from staff working overtime through the backlog.

But now that the family knows the truth, “Oh, I cuss him every day for doing that to himself,” Russell D’Angelo said.

The parents had seen signs of drug use, “but when we asked, he always said he wasn’t using drugs,” D’Angelo said.

“There were signs,” D’Angelo said. “He was being really nasty. He was thin and irritable.”

He’d always deny using, his father said.

Fellow band member Bobby Murray, now 42 and living in Phoenix, recalled, “Drugs were all around and we all dabbled, but we didn’t let it get its hooks in us.”

The band eventually fizzled out, and when it did, Murray said, “From then on, it took its toll on that kid.”

“Most of us just blew (drugs) off, but he was always in denial,” according to Murray. “But it got its hooks in him and he could never just get it together.”

Other bandmates Mazzi Rawd, Rick Rael and Lorraine Lewis couldn’t be reached for comment.

Russell D’Angelo said a friend of his son’s told him Bill was afraid to admit the drug use.

“He was afraid that I wouldn’t think much of him,” D’Angelo said. “But I would never turn him away. Never.”

Bill D’Angelo was at a friend’s house in Northeast Albuquerque the morning of his death. He called his father on his cell phone, complaining of severe chest pains.

The father met his son in a parking lot near the elder D’Angelo’s home at Wyoming and Menaul Boulevards Northeast. He barely got his son to Presbyterian Kaseman hospital before Bill D’Angelo collapsed and died.

Russell D’Angelo said his son’s last words were, “If I die, I’m sorry.”

“He had everything going for him at one time,” Russell said.

Bill D’Angelo was the lead guitarist for Femme Fatale, a heavy-metal band that hit the Billboard charts, albeit low, in 1988. They toured the United States, England and Germany.

Kirk Cumpston, medical director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center, remembers the band.

“Oh yeah. From here right? I remember them,” he said Friday while offering tips about the signs of methamphetamine use.

Courtesy of