Controversy surrounded West Lee in 2007 when his wife Sarah Lee drowned

By Dahvi Shira
May 24, 2011 02:30 PM
Craig Sjodin/ABC

Previous seasons of The Bachelorette have featured plenty of contestants with baggage – but never quite like one man vying for Ashley Hebert‘s heart on season 8.

During Monday night’s premiere, South Carolina-based prosecutor West Lee addresses losing “the true love of my life” in 2007 when his then-wife Sarah Lee drowned in the couple’s bathtub.

“She had this history of seizures,” West said of his wife of seven years. “One day she went and got in the bathtub. I checked on her and I found her face down in the tub. [I] pulled her out and I called 911.”

According to a lengthy police investigation, West had nothing to do with his wife’s death, but the story is more complicated. There were allegations of drug use by both West and his wife and signs his wife had mental health problems.

Also, police say that while West was cleared, his wife’s mother, Dianna Sapp, struggled to believe it.

A Police Investigation

“Her mom voiced concern about the cause of death, but we looked into the case a second time,” Lt. Matt Davis, from the Lexington, S.C., Police Department, tells PEOPLE. “There was no physical evidence on scene that suggested Sarah Young’s death was a homicide by Bachelorette contestant Adam West Lee.”

“We had the coroner’s report,” Davis says. “She had alcohol and marijuana in her system at the time of her death, but we’re not sure if she purposely killed herself.”

According to the report, Sarah’s death was caused by accidental fresh water drowning. West, too, admitted he was under the influence of marijuana when Sarah died.

History of Depression

According to the coroner’s report, West said Sarah had been “very depressed” around the time of her death.

After getting into a few minor car accidents in a short period of time, “everyone in the family was concerned about her safety, and [West] wanted her to perhaps go back to the doctor,” the report reads.

And two weeks before she died, West caught his wife inhaling computer cleaning spray, though she promised not to ever do that again, saying that she “had an epiphany,” according to the report.

“[Sarah] kissed [West] on the neck and went to the bathroom to take her bath,” the report reads. “Mr. Lee said he also took his bath (in another bathroom), and when he finished, she still was not out so he checked on her.”

After checking on her once, West called for her again, and got no response. According to the report, “The door was locked, which was not unusual, so [West] used a pair of scissors to gain entry. Once inside, he saw the victim unconscious in the water, pulled her onto the floor, and called 911.”

West told the coroner that Sarah had attempted suicide twice in the past and had received medical attention. Her medical history was also investigated by the Lexington Police Department.

“Friends, family and acquaintances [of Sarah] were interviewed,” Davis says. “A longer than usual investigation was conducted in regards to pursuing who she was. This case is no longer active and not expected to open again just because it is back in the news.”

Sarah’s death “hurt more than anything I’ve ever felt in my life,” West said on the show. “That part of my heart, that trusting part and the loving part, it just vanished. It died.”