Pubdate: Wed, 10 Oct 2001
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2001 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Author: Diane Frederick


Anderson -- An Anderson woman is seeking prosecution of a cancer patient 
suspected of selling her teen-age son a lethal dose of narcotic painkillers.

Michael Nugent of New Palestine said her son, Stephen Andrew Crouch, 18, 
died May 10 of an overdose of liquid morphine and OxyContin.

Nugent claims authorities have been reluctant to pursue charges because the 
alleged supplier is terminally ill.

But Prosecutor Rodney Cummings insists there's not enough evidence to 
charge the suspect.

"I'd be happy to lock this guy up, whether he's dying or not," Cummings 
said. "I would if there was enough evidence."

Nugent's personal campaign to hold the person thought to be the drug 
supplier legally responsible for her son's death is reminiscent of the 
highly publicized crusade by the late actor Carroll O'Connor, whose only 
child died in a drug-induced suicide.

O'Connor called his son's drug supplier a "partner in murder" and launched 
a quest for legal vengeance.

The supplier was convicted of possessing and furnishing cocaine to Hugh 
O'Connor and served a brief jail sentence. He later lost a slander suit 
against Carroll O'Connor, who went on to persuade three states to enact 
laws to allow victims to sue drug dealers.

Becky McClure of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council said she could 
find no record of a drug supplier being prosecuted in a drug death in Indiana.

"I don't know the facts of this particular case at all, but it (morphine 
and OxyContin) is a controlled substance, and delivery of a controlled 
substance is against the law," McClure said.

Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said she conducted a full autopsy 
and full toxicology screening and determined Crouch died of an overdose but 
did not list the death as a homicide or suicide.

Cummings and Nugent said Crouch drank the morphine, which normally is injected.

Nugent, an addictions counselor in Hancock County, said she believes her 
son chose to ingest the drugs.

"He made a choice, but 18-year-olds make some bad choices -- and 
unfortunately, his was a fatal choice," she said.

Capt. Andy Dietz, assistant director of the Hamilton-Boone County Drug Task 
Force, said that while recreational use of liquid morphine is uncommon, 
OxyContin is a prevalent and lucrative drug on the street where it sells 
for $40 to $60 a pill.

Cummings said drug task force investigators in Madison County have 
confirmed that the man suspected of providing the drugs to Crouch has 
access to the narcotics. However, investigators have not been able to prove 
the man sold drugs or link the man to the drugs that killed Crouch.

Nugent said she would like to see the alleged supplier charged with 
reckless homicide.
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