Pubdate: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 Source: Kentucky Post (KY) Copyright: 2003 Kentucky Post Contact: http://www.kypost.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/661 Author: Shelly Whitehead Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?136 (Methadone) TOT'S DEATH: DRUGS NOW SUSPECTED On Dec. 14, when Ryan Alexandra Koeninger's family should have gathered for her first birthday party, they were instead planning her funeral. At the time, everyone thought the tot had succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Three days earlier, her mother, Angel Koeninger, woke from a mother/daughter nap to find Ryan lying cold and lifeless beside her in their California home. Less than an hour later, the little girl was pronounced dead at a hospital and nothing -- from interviews with family members to the initial autopsy -- suggested anything but SIDS was to blame. That was until Feb. 28, when Campbell County Coroner Dr. Mark Schweitzer shared the toxicology report on Ryan with other officials. It showed there was a concentration of 0.9 milligrams of methadone, a drug commonly used to treat heroin and OxyContin addictions, per liter of Ryan's blood. "They described it as a fatal amount for a child," said Campbell County Youth Services Unit Detective Jason Faulkner. Police reordered tests to verify the initial findings and ensure no other drugs or chemicals were present in Ryan's body. Medical records were subpoenaed and drug, poisoning and pediatric health experts were queried about methadone poisoning in very young children. Faulkner said within a week all the evidence confirmed the initial toxicological findings. Schweitzer said the level of methadone in Ryan was equivalent to an adult dose. Faulkner said Ryan's mother and stepfather, Richard Koeninger, told police they were on methadone maintenance treatment for drug addictions. Angel told police she took liquid methadone prescribed legally for her through an Indiana clinic. What the Koeningers did not tell police then was that they also kept illegally obtained methadone pills. The couple also failed to mention that last summer, Ryan was allowed to sleep off the effects of a methadone pill she had "chewed on." And perhaps most important, the couple never mentioned that the night Ryan died they thought she had taken some methadone pills she had found in her mother's purse. Campbell County Police said all that information came out when they questioned the Koeningers at the agency's Alexandria headquarters. "She (Angel) brought up an incident over the summer where she found Ryan had chewed on one of the pills," Faulkner said. "She said she took the pills away from her -- and she slept all day and all night, but she never sought medical attention." Angel Koeninger told authorities when she returned home the night of Dec. 11 after Ryan was taken to the hospital, she noticed two half methadone pills were missing from her purse. "Then she recalled Ryan playing with her purse earlier that day and realized she had taken the methadone," Faulkner said. The 40 milligrams of methadone Ryan ate was a fatal dose of the opiate, Schweitzer said. The discovery prompted authorities to call in the state, since Ryan's 5-year-old sister still lived at the couple's California home. That child is now in the custody of other family members. Angel Koeninger, 23, was arrested Friday after a Campbell County grand jury indicted her Thursday on one count of second-degree manslaughter. She's being held without bond in the Campbell County Detention Center in Newport. Up to this point, Angel Koeninger had only a smattering of non-violent offenses on her record, according to authorities. Schweitzer said her children showed no signs of physical or sexual abuse. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.