“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” – Robert Browning
This week’s sad case brings us to Lowville, a happy place located in Lewis County, about an hour and a half drive northeast of Syracuse. Lowville is the home of the world's largest cream cheese manufacturing plant, a fact which is celebrated every year with the annual Cream Cheese Festival. The festival features live music, local and regional art vendors and, naturally, food. Visitors participate in a variety of themed events, including the milk tray relay, cream cheese toss, cream cheese bingo and the "fill your friend's face contest." The festival takes place near the end of September.
Two days after Christmas, a 15-year-old, while hanging out at another 15-year-old friend’s house, died from an overdose of prescription medication that was supplied to them by the friend’s mother. The mother was charged with manslaughter in the second degree, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a child.
Enter: Brenda, 49 year-old mother; Diana, Brenda’s teen daughter; Derek, 15, Brenda’s friend, a freshman at Carthage Central High School; two other teen girls.
Testimony of One of the Teen Girls
Q: What time did you go to Diana’s house on December 27?
A: It was the afternoon. It was really cold out.
Q: What were your plans at Diana’s house?
A: We were just going to chill with Derek and our other friend.
Q: Now Diana, I am going to ask you a very difficult question, and I want to remind you that you promised the judge and everyone here that you would tell the truth, okay?
Q: What did you mean when you said that you were “going to chill.”
A: We were going to get high.
Q: With what?
A: Cough medicine,Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold, and oxy.
Q: Was Diana’s mom home when you got there?
Q: Were you afraid of getting caught?
A: No, Brenda is a cool mom. She always let us chill.
Q: Did she know you all had the medicine.
Q: And the oxy?
Q: Did you take any?
A: Yes. We all did. But Derek said he wasn’t feeling anything, so he drank a lot extra of the cough medicine.
Q: And what happened?
A: We were listening to music downstairs, and I was feeling pretty nice, when I saw Derek getting weird. He was like seeing things and getting scared.
Q: Did he say anything to you?
A: Yeah. “Help me.”
Q: And then?
A: And then he passed out. We tried to wake him up but he just stayed lying down with the whites of his eyes showing, he had foam coming out of his mouth, and he couldn’t breathe.
Q: Where was Diana’s mom?
A: She was upstairs. Diana ran up to get her and she was sleeping. But Diana got her up and she came down.
Q: What did Diana’s mom say when she saw Derek?
A: She was real scared and she yelled at us not to call 911 and not to answer calls to Derek's cell phone from his mother.
Q: And what was happening to Derek at that time?
A: He stopped breathing. He stopped moving.
Q: What did Diana’s mom do next?
A: She put her ear to Derek’s chest, like listening. And she just kept saying, shit, shit, shit. She said he was dead. And then she told us to remove trash containing the packaging for the cough syrup from the garbage can.
Q: Did you do that?
Q: And then what happened?
A: Brenda took the packaging and put it outside somewhere. Then she came in and called 911. And the ambulance took Derek away.
Q: Where did you and the other kids get the medicine from?
A: Diana’s mom.
Cross-examination of Diana’s Mom
Q: You told your attorney on direct examination that you did not give the medications to the kids, right?
A: That’s right.
Q: But you knew that the kids had taken the medication out of your room on December 27, right?
Q: And you knew what they were going to do with it, right.
A: I didn’t force them to take it.
Defense Attorney’s Closing Statement: "BRENDA DIDN'T SHOVE THE DRUGS DOWN HIS THROAT AND HOLDS NO CRIMINAL LIABILITY."
The Court’s Decision: Cool Mom Put On Ice
The court decided that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Brenda's conduct, both in supplying the drugs and in preventing Derek from receiving life-saving medical help contributed to Derek's death by setting]in motion the events that resulted in death. The evidence was sufficient to show that consciously chose to ignore the risk of death.
With respect to the charge of tampering with physical evidence, the evidence at trial showed that Brenda was guilty. The fact that it was the teens and not Brenda who removed the trash was of no moment.
Brenda, the cool mom, was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a child.
Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_05939.htm