Pubdate: Sat, 12 Apr 2003
Source: Kentucky Post (KY)
Copyright: 2003 Kentucky Post
Author: Shelly Whitehead
Bookmark: (Methadone)


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.