Brian’s autopsy reveals heroin and kratom intoxication. His friend says he confessed to him of having killed Kristal. Detectives search Brendan Pulver’s home for a kiln.
Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People, and more.
UPDATE 9/23/2022: Catfish John Keenan was found dead in Raleigh, NC.
November 15th, 2021
On the evening of May 16th, 2020, a man named Lantz discovered “Dready” Brian Otten passed out on the roof deck of the Starlit Hostel about 15 minutes outside of Crestone. “He was purple, and he wasn’t breathing,” he told me during an interview. Lantz’s dog was on a leash wrapped around Brian’s wrist. “There were pieces of an orange mixed with vomit and a frothy white foam coming out of his mouth.”
Lantz ran down the winding staircase in a panic and told everyone to call 911. “I think he’s dead,” he said. The hostel owner, Doug, called 911 and passed the phone to Dave Watts, another hostel guest. Dave went upstairs to the roof deck, and the operator asked if he could perform CPR, but he didn’t feel comfortable.
“The ambulance arrived in just 15-20 minutes,” Doug told me during an interview. It was too late, however. When two sheriff’s deputies arrived soon after, the EMS crew told them Brian was deceased. “I was told by the EMS crew that Brian was cold to the touch and they were unable to find signs of life,” Corporal Hansen wrote. “I was told that Doctor Listen from San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center had called time of death at 7:52 p.m.”
Corporal Hansen described the scene in his report: “I saw Brian laying with his head to the east, face up, arms stretched out to each side. Brian was not wearing a shirt, he had on shorts and [flip flops]…There were several pieces of what appeared to be an orange peel laying near Brian and on his beard…Brian had what looked like mucus in his mouth and his mouth was practically open. Brian’s face had red blotches on the skin, that are at this time unknown what may have caused them.”
Three days later, an autopsy was performed. Heroin, oxycodone, kratom (mitragynine), nicotine and marijuana were found in his system. There was no fentanyl, meth, or other drugs present. The coroner told me during an interview that sometimes oxycodone is cut into the heroin itself, but said Brian could have been taking it separately. The doctor wrote in the report that Brian died because of “heroin and mitragynine intoxication.” There was no mention of Brian having choked or asphyxiated.
While kratom (mitragynine) can be fatal by itself, when it is associated with a death, it is usually when other depressant drugs are found. Kratom is a legal opioid that is typically brewed as a tea.
With Brian being a figure of central interest in the disappearance of Kristal Reisinger, his death has led to speculation and frustration.
Brian died because of heroin and kratom intoxication
Just two days before he died, Brian had received his $1,200 stimulus check. Typically cash-strapped, Brian had been mopping floors and washing dishes at the Starlit hostel for trade, as he couldn’t afford rent. He had lived in a bunk bed in a shared room upstairs for the previous two months.
Over the years, Brian bounced around Crestone, even crashing at Catfish John Keenan’s at times. After Kristal Reisinger disappeared, he left Crestone and went on an extended cross-country road trip with friends, returning in late 2019. On January 6th 2020, he was arrested in Salida for misdemeanor harassment against someone.
Two days before he died, Brian went with Lantz to Salida to cash the stimulus check at H&R Block. “He owed me money, he owed Doug money,” Lantz said. “I told him he didn’t want to have to wait several more weeks to cash his check and convinced him to cash it.”
-> Get the full backstory of investigating the Kristal Reisinger story in the new book by Be Scofield.
Brian and Lantz then went to their friend Josh’s house in Salida, where Brian got extremely drunk. “I mean bottles and beers and constantly putting it back,” Lantz said. “He normally drank one or two 40s a day, but he came out of the store with a six-pack, rum and several 40s all for himself.” That night Brian got belligerent. “He started going into a fit and kicked my windshield in.” Lantz said there was a giant crack from one side to the other. Josh came out and punched Brian in the arm to make him stop. Brian slept in a sleeping bag in the car while Josh and Lantz stayed in Josh’s RV.
Several people told me Brian was an alcoholic and had a long history of using meth and heroin. In 2017, Brian’s friend called 911 and told the sheriff’s office he had been drinking, smoking and doing opioids. “He stated that Mr. Otten stopped breathing and started to turn blue,” the sheriff’s report reads. Brian apparently overdosed but had survived. Lantz said Brian had been drinking more heavily in the days prior to his death.
Dready Brian was also known for being volatile, particularly while under the influence. “He was banned from the Cloud, the brewery, the liquor store and other places in town,” his friend told me. A police report from 2016 shows he refused to leave the Elephant Cloud market, became aggressive and threatened to fight the owner. Doug recalled having to kick him out of the Starlit hostel for being belligerent and rude to guests one evening during an event.
One of his close friends who used the alias “Calvin,” told the Up and Vanished podcast Brian had a dark side to him. “From what I’ve seen, and I know his ex-wife and I know all the other girlfriends he’s been with, there’s a violence behind him, like a dark, it doesn’t come out right at first, but when they’re alone it happens.”
In Salida the next morning, Lantz and Brian woke up early and headed back to Crestone. It was May, 15th. “I took him back to the house, and he was puking all over,” Lantz said. Brian told Lantz he needed something to help him “feel better” from his terrible hangover.
Brian had lost his phone on a hike, so he used an old phone of Lantz’s to message a friend for some heroin. The phone didn’t have cell service, only Wi-Fi connection.
The next morning, May 16th, the entire crew, Lantz, Dave, Doug, and Haven, went to the Food Bank in town. “Brian usually went into town with us,” Lantz said. “But he wanted to stay home and recover.”
From around 9 a.m. until early afternoon, when most of the crew returned, Brian was alone in the hostel. James Talon and his mother Neola were staying in an RV on the property right next to the hostel.
“We didn’t know Brian was still there when we got back,” Dave told me. A few neighbors had come by to hang out at the hostel that afternoon. A man named Maitreya who was hanging out that afternoon told me he asked the group if Brian was there. He thought it was odd that no one knew. Dave and Doug’s rooms were downstairs, and no one went upstairs until Lantz returned around 6 p.m. as he was staying in the same room as Brian.
“I saw Brian laying on the deck and I was like ‘oh, there’s Brian,'” Lantz said. “But then I was like ‘oh shit, wait a minute’ and realized something was up.”
Lantz opened the door and saw his dog leashed to Brian’s wrist. He had agreed to watch him while Lantz was at work during the day. The dog was uncomfortable, so he unleashed him. Lantz then noticed Brian was purple, not breathing, and had foam and orange pieces coming out of his mouth.
“David explained that they all saw Lantz run downstairs ‘freaking out,’ then they called 911,” the police report reads. When the EMS crew arrived just 15-20 minutes later, they reported Brian was “cold to the touch.”
Corporal Hansen’s report described the scene. “At approximately 9 p.m., Coroner T. Perrin arrived on scene…I assisted Coroner Perrin with placing Brian in the body bag. One of the EMT’s and myself brought Brian down from the landing to the stretcher. We had to carry Brian down without the aid of a stretcher as it would not fit around the tight areas on the second level. Brian was secured in Coroner Perrin’s vehicle.”
After the two sheriff’s deputies and EMS crew left, Lantz and Dave found Brian’s heroin spoon and needle in the bathroom upstairs. Somehow, the deputies had missed them.
Lantz and Dave found Brian’s heroin spoon and needle in the bathroom upstairs. Somehow, the deputies had missed them.
And then Lantz realized Brian was still logged into Facebook messenger on the old phone of his. Looking through his Facebook messages, he saw Brian had messaged a guy to order heroin. Lantz contacted the sheriff’s deputies and told them he had the heroin spoon and messages from the dealer that sold Brian the heroin. “They weren’t interested,” Lantz told me. “They told us to throw away the heroin spoon. I told them what happened, that there was a message from the guy he bought the drugs from.” The sheriff’s office never followed up.
Lantz and Dave were shocked. There was no autopsy yet. His death could have been foul play. The heroin could have been laced. They had expected every angle to be investigated and explored.
I ended up finding the person who claims to have sold Brian the heroin.