Cause of death still unknown in death of inmate at county jail

UNION COUNTY — Three years after William Parisio was accused of pummeling his girlfriend with a pair of 12-pound dumbbells and then strangling her, the Cranford resident was found dead in his Union County jail cell.

Parisio, 25, awaiting trial for murder, was pronounced dead late on the morning on Feb. 17, but an autopsy the following day revealed no obvious signs of significant trauma, according to acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park. The cause of death is pending additional toxicology and biological tests, which could take weeks, according to a prosecutor’s office spokesperson.

Parisio was charged with murder and two weapons offenses in March 2011 after an investigation into the murder of Pamela Schmidt, 22, of Warren Township.

Authorities said at the time of the murder the former Rutgers student struck his girlfriend with dumbbells and then manually strangled her. The murder, however, took an unusual twist when Parisio’s mother revealed her son had used “bath salts,” a designer drug that mimics methamphetamines and cocaine use.

Although this set off a firestorm of concern about the growing use of bath salts, several months after Parisio was arrested toxicology tests revealed there was no trace of the drug in his system.

Immediately following the murder, his mother, Diane Parisio, told media outlets her son was bipolar and had a history of substance abuse, including using bath salts. According to sources, this designer drug produces a dangerous and violent high and can cause hallucinations, paranoia, rapid heart beat and suicidal thoughts.

Parisio said her son struggled with mental illness and was certain bath salts had either caused or added to his instability.
Over the counter sale of bath salts was banned just months after Schmidt was found murdered in the basement of the Parisio home, with the state enacting Pamela’s Law, outlawing designer drugs that cause serve psychotic episodes.

According to media reports, Schmidt went to see Parisio that night to break off their relationship after unsuccessfully trying to help him with his drug dependency. The next morning the Rutgers University senior was found by Parisio’s mother, brutally murdered.

Schmidt’s family has since established the Pamela Sue Schmidt Award for Outstanding Public Service, which provides a scholarship to a student at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where the senior had been accepted into a master’s degree program. The school has matched the money raised for the scholarship, with $25,000 reportedly raised for the fund.