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Autopsy: Ex-judge Baumgartner died from natural causes

Richard Baumgartner served as judge from 1992 to 2011 when he abruptly stepped down.

Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner died from internal bleeding brought on by a ruptured artery, autopsy records from the Regional Forensic Center show.

In layman's terms, Baumgartner's death was attributed to "natural causes."

The New York native, 70, was found dead the afternoon of Jan. 23 at his farm on Rush Miller Road. He'd been in declining health and suffered years of back problems.

Related: Baumgartner found dead

Cause of death was found to be "peritoneal hemorrhage due to splenic artery pseudoaneurysm," records show.

The doctor also found evidence of chronic pancreatitis.

Drug tests found the presence of nonlethal levels of alcohol, bupropion, which is used to treat depression and smoking, and caffeine, records show.

Once a man of about 6 feet in height, he weighed about 128 pounds.

Baumgartner, a Democrat, Navy veteran and former lawyer, was appointed to the bench in 1992 as one of Knox County's three Criminal Court judges.

He championed opening up the courts to print and TV cameras as a way to further expose the public to the judicial process.

Baumgartner, widely respected by the defense bar, presided over numerous high-profile cases including the so-called "Love Triangle" case of Michael Frazier and the Thomas D. "Zoo Man" Huskey prosecutions.

He also was judge when four defendants were tried in the 2007 killings of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. The four, including ringleader Lemaricus Davidson, were convicted.

November 2012: A federal jury found former Knox County judge Richard Baumgartner guilty misprision of a felony. He was accused of covering up a drug conspiracy involving his former mistress.

In early 2011, Baumgartner abruptly stepped down.

The TBI investigated his efforts to get opiates to satisfy a drug habit. They discovered he'd used a woman in the criminal system named Deena Castleman to help feed his habit.

Baumgartner pleaded guilty to official misconduct in state court. Federal authorities later prosecuted him from misprision of a felony, resulting in convictions that briefly sent him to a federal facility.

Two of the four defendants convicted in the Christian-Newsom case ended up getting new trials because of Baumgartner's conduct. Juries against convicted them.

He spent the remaining years of his life at his farm near the French Broad River.