Over the next five weeks, Henry was treated for both the physical trauma to his head and chest, as well as for the hypoxic insult to his brain. After 38 days of terrible suffering, Henry succumbed to the hypoxic brain injury, never having walked, dressed himself or played one note of music again. He died the week he should have graduated high school with his friends.
Henry was found by paramedics near death, bruised and bleeding, just before noon on a weekday. He was inside the private residence of two much older adults, at least one of whom has a criminal record. Neither of the two adults could offer any reasonable explanation for how they knew this teenage boy, or how he had ended up in this condition inside their home. The pair told police that they had only met Henry the night before, and in an effort to be “good samaritans,” they had offered to bring him back to their residence so they could help him. They claimed that they only discovered his critical medical condition, including the bleeding and bruising, when they arose and couldn’t wake Henry the next morning. They also claimed that as soon as they realized that Henry was in medical distress, that they called 911 for Henry right away – in a timely and responsible fashion.
The story told by the two adults who were alone with Henry inside their home for the approximately 15 hours immediately preceding his emergency hospital admission does not make sense, nor does it stand up to even the most basic fact-checking. Since the first week following Henry’s hospital admission, our family has presented investigators and prosecutors with highly specific information and data that contradicts the version of events offered by the two adults.
Our family seeks a full and unbiased criminal investigation into the circumstances of how Henry came to suffer what proved to be a fatal hypoxic brain injury, as well as how he ended up with significant physical trauma. All of the media coverage of our son’s death thus far (99% of which appeared in the week immediately following his death) has focused on only one question: was Henry’s cause of death caused by physical assault? Given that Henry’s cause of death was noted by his treating neurologist on the day he passed away to be complication from hypoxic brain injury, our family did not expect his autopsy to disprove that diagnosis. And it didn’t; it confirmed it.
But the fact that Henry’s physical injuries didn’t end up being the one element of his complex, multifactorial medical condition that actually killed him 38 days after he was brought into the hospital doesn’t mean that they don’t matter. First of all, he was clearly assaulted, and that should matter. He didn’t beat himself up. But the physical injuries should also matter for purposes of criminal investigation. If someone is brought into the ER with a gunshot wound to the head, as well as three broken toes, the broken toes may not be what killed the victim, but they should definitely be part of what investigators will look into to try to figure out what happened .
The only thing investigators have said definitively about my son’s case -ever – is that they agree with the Medical Examiner’s findings that Henry did not die as the result of an injury caused by physical assault. But that leaves a great many unanswered questions that deserve to be investigated. Why was this adult couple so actively interested in cultivating a relationship with a teenage boy, and why did they want to take him home with them that night? Why would they say they had only met Henry for the first time the night they took him home? What happened inside that residence during those 15 hours? Was anyone else besides Henry and the adult couple in the house during those hours? How did Henry end up bruised and bleeding? How long was it before 911 was called, and what were the circumstances of the call? What relationship might this adult couple have had to the drugs on which Henry overdosed? If this adult couple didn’t supply the drugs, who did, and are they still dealing in our community, meaning that others may die? Do either of the two adults who took Henry home have prescriptions for drugs that might be diverted for illegal use? If the assault Henry is known to have suffered approximately 36 hours before going home with this adult couple didn’t cause his physical, non-overdose-related injuries, what did? Do phone and text records confirm this couple’s version of events leading up to Henry’s death? Are there witnesses or other types of evidence – such as on a computer or cell phone that might link this adult couple to drugs Henry ingested in the 24 hours before his hospital admission?
Investigating and Prosecuting Overdose Deaths
Not every drug overdose death should be dismissed as merely “accidental.” That’s why a growing number of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors around the country are utilizing the state and federal laws already on the books to investigate suspicious overdose cases as potential homicides, and to bring homicide charges when appropriate against those who played a role in the overdose victim’s death. Henry’s case is undoubtedly complex, from both a medical and a criminal investigation standpoint. However, our family believes that the professional competence to truly investigate and prosecute even a complex case like our son’s exists within our community’s criminal justice agencies, if only someone – anyone – within one of those agencies would take a real interest in what happened to our boy. Henry’s case needs an advocate within our system, and that’s what we are seeking on his behalf.
Let me be as clear as I can: based on what I know with significant certainty about what happened to my teenage son, there is a HIGH likelihood that someone else’s son or daughter in our community will also overdose and die in a similar fashion unless investigators and prosecutors treat Henry’s death as something other than an unfortunate accident attributable only to my son’s admitted drug problem. And that breaks my heart. No matter what happens, I never get to have my child back, but no one else should lose their beloved boy or girl because no one in authority cared enough about this case to truly advocate for the very best investigation, and at least an attempt at prosecution.
Arrests and Prosecutions in Overdose Cases
Below, please find a running list – updated regularly – of cases around the U.S. in which homicide and other charges are being pursued in overdose deaths. These cases are well-recognized as an important element in fighting the overdose epidemic now sweeping our communities. Please share any cases you know of in which drug suppliers have been/are being prosecuted in overdose deaths. You can post links to cases in the comments below this blog post and I will then add them to this list.
Note: I am not including any of the rapidly growing number of cases around the country in which prescribing physicians are prosecuted for homicide in overdose deaths.
Thank you – Katie, Henry’s mama
- Wisconsin – Area Business Owner Charged with Reckless Homicide in Overdose Death – February 14, 2011
- Tennessee – Kingsport Man Pleads Guilty to Reckless Homicide in Overdose Death – January 18, 2011
- Virginia - Woman Charged With Murder, Failed to Call 911 For Hours After Friend’s Overdose – November 10, 2010
- North Carolina – Man Indicted in Overdose Death of Police Chief’s Daughter (Witnesses Say He Failed to Get Victim Medical Help When He Knew She Needed It) – October 26, 2010
- Washington – Man Charged in 18 Year Old’s Fatal Overdose – July 15, 2010
- Missouri – Drug Task Force Announces Arrests, Charges in Drug Overdose Death – February 21, 2011
- Oregon – Man Sentenced in Overdose Death; Marks State’s 13th Recent Successful Prosecution of This Type – July 8, 2010
- Wisconsin – Man Charged in Woman’s Overdose Death – February 18, 2011
- Michigan – Heroin Overdose Leads to Homicide Charges – February 1, 2011
- Wisconsin – Motion to Dismiss in Reckless Homicide Overdose Case Denied – February 17, 2011
- Ohio – State Attorney General’s Office Adding Staff, Training to Prosecute Drug Suppliers in Overdose Death Cases – February 17, 2011
- Missouri – Six Defendants Headed to Trial on Homicide Charges in Overdose Death – January 29, 2011
- Louisiana – Manslaughter Charges Filed in Overdose Death; Police Say Suspect Left Victim to Die Without Summoning Help – August 11, 2010
- Wisconsin – Man Faces Homicide Charges 15 Months After Overdose Death (Text messages, phone records linked victim to defendant) – July 10, 2010
- Connecticut – State Police Make Arrest in Overdose Death – January 2010
- Mississippi – Three Arrested in Drug Overdose Death – February 1, 2011
- Indiana – Three Facing Charges in Teen’s Overdose Death – January 2010
- Tennessee – Man Indicted on Murder Charges in Rx Drug Overdose – 2008
- Georgia – Atlanta Musician Warren Ullom Sentenced to 20 Years in Overdose Death - July, 2010
- Minnesota – Man Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in Overdose Death – February 19, 2011
- Virginia – Man Indicted for Murder in Overdose Death (Third Time in Less Than 3 Years Local Prosecutors Pursue Charges in Overdose Cases) – January 11, 2011
- Wisconsin – Man Convicted in Heroin Death – February 12, 2011
- Louisiana – Couple Convicted After Failing to Call 911 While Victim Overdoses in Their Home – April, 2001
- Washington State – Woman Convicted of Controlled Substance Homicide in 18 Year Old’s Overdose – February, 2011
- Florida – Dealer Gets 30 Years in Area’s 1st Overdose-Murder Conviction – 2009
OVERDOSE CASES WITH QUESTIONABLE INVESTIGATIONS