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Beer heir shunned after girlfriend's strange death

The scion of the family that for generations ran America's most famous brewery, Anheuser-Busch, seems to have ducked the threat of criminal prosecution following the death just before Christmas of his former-model girlfriend from a drug overdose in his own bed. But the disdain of his home town may now stick to him forever.

Prosecutors in St Louis finally confirmed last week what many had considered a foregone conclusion. They had no cause to press charges against August Busch IV and had found no evidence of wrongdoing. Rather his girlfriend, 27-year-old Adrienne Martin, had died of an accidental overdose of cocaine and the painkiller oxycodone.

The tragedy, which unfolded on 19 December, has gripped a city that, for better or worse, is as closely identified with Anheuser-Busch – and therefore the Busch dynasty – as Detroit is with General Motors or Los Angeles with Hollywood.

But the city is hardly swelling with sympathy for the man known simply as "The Fourth". It is not just the privilege and the wealth that irks, but also his role in the 2008 sale of Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser, to Belgium's InBev for $52bn (£32bn), just two years after he took over as CEO from his retiring father. It seemed to some that he had sold the city's soul.

Mr Busch also made headlines in 1983 when he crashed his Corvette in Tucson, killing a young waitress in the passenger seat. Mr Busch was found hours later at home, claiming he had no memory of the accident.

Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor in the Martin case, told reporters last week: "We have no evidence of how and when the drugs were obtained. It was clearly an accidental overdose."

The decision to drop the case has angered nobody more than Ms Martin's father, Larry Eby. "I'm not going to stop," he told the New York Times. "Mr Busch doesn't know me but he will when I'm done."