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Lawyers and Settlements
By Evelyn Pringle
The numbers cited by the FDA for possible attention deficit drug-related deaths and injuries represent a gross understatement of statistics. The truth is that these drugs are responsible for an endless stream of deaths and injuries all over the country.
According to the latest investigation by the FDA, in the four year period between 1999 and 2003, there were twenty-five deaths in persons using ADHD drugs, 19 of which were children. Officials also acknowledged that more than 50 cases of cardiovascular problems had been reported, including stroke, heart attack, hypertension, palpitations and arrhythmia. There are many more documented adverse events caused by these drugs and the FDA knows it.
For instance, on November 20, 1986, after being on Ritalin since the third grade, 14-year-old Rod Mathews lured a classmate, Shawn Ouillette, into a wooded area near his home in Canton, Massachusetts, under the pretense of a plan to build a snow fort, and beat him to death with a baseball bat.
Although he had no prior history of violence, Rod beat Shawn until he died and just left the body in the woods. Rod took two friends to see the body, and threatened them with the same fate if they told anyone about the murder.
Shaun’s parents reported him missing but his body was not found until about three weeks later, when one of Rod’s friends tipped off police.
A month before the murder, Rod wrote about some of his bizarre thoughts and actions and said:
“My problem is I like to do crazy things. I’ve been lighting fires all over the place. Lately, I’ve been wanting to kill people I hate, and I’ve been wanting to light houses on fire. What should I do?”
This 14-year-old child was tried as an adult, found guilty of second-degree murder, and went on to become the youngest inmate in the Massachusetts state prison system.
By all accounts, Shaun was a wonderful son and his mother, Jeanne Quinn, missed him terribly. Jeanne told friends that when Rod killed her son he killed her too.
So, the question remains, why isn’t Shaun’s name listed under Ritalin-related deaths?
There is also no mention of the prescription drug-deaths of three members of the McCra family from Rochester, Massachusetts.
On October 9, 1993, 15-year-old Gerard McCra, Jr shot and killed his mother, Merle, 36, his father, Gerald, 35, and his 11-year-old sister, Melanie, after taking Ritalin for nine years – since he was six-years-old.
According to court documents and testimony at trial, Gerald told authorities that he was upset because his parents threatened to kick him out of the house.
On the day of the crime, Gerald said his father and sister were about to leave in the family car, and he asked them to wait so that he could go with them.
Gerald went back in the house, broke into his grandfather’s room, got a loaded gun and shot his mother in the back of the head and then returned to the waiting car, and shot his father and sister in the back of the head as well.
Next Gerald drove the car to an area behind the house and dragged his mother’s body into his sister’s room and locked the door.
He attempted to clean up the bloody areas of the house, and then showered and called a female friend and told her to come over to visit. The two spent the night together in Gerald’s room.
The next day, he drove the car up to the house, loaded his mother’s body in it, and drove car away and left it sit. Later that day, police found the parked car with the three dead bodies abandoned along a dirt road.
After police found the bodies, Gerald admitted to the killings. He was convicted of three counts of first degree murder on October 23, 1995, and each carried a mandatory life sentence.
The FDA made no mention of the ADHD drug related death of little Sherrice Iverson at the hearings. On May 25, 1997, an 18-year-old high school senior, Jeremy Strohmeyer, raped and murdered seven-year-old Sherrice, in a Nevada casino. Jeremy had been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Dexedrine just days before the crime.
The former high school honor student from Long Beach, California, sexually assaulted and then strangled Sherrice in a stall in the women’s bathroom at Primm Valley Casino on the Nevada-California border. Security cameras picked up Jeremy leaving the bathroom.
When police arrived at Jeremy’s home and were waiting for a search warrant, his mother gave them an empty Dexedrine bottle and a suicide note her son had left that said:
“I am so sorry, I just pray that this is enough to finish me off. Please Lord let me die. I’m sorry, mom, I’m sorry dad, Heather, all my friends and family. Forgive me for I have sinned. I’m sorry. Please give these things (unidentified objects) to Agnes Lee. Tell her I will always love her.”
Heather is Jeremy’s sister and Agnes Lee is a former girlfriend. Jeremy had taken 37 Dexedrine pills. Police took him to the hospital where his stomach was pumped and according to police reports, Jeremy gave the officers a complete confession.
Moments before his trial was set to begin on September 8, 1998, Jeremy pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. The plea agreement would send him to prison for life with no chance of parole. Had he gone to trial, he could have gotten the death penalty.
The Ritalin-related deaths of three young Kentucky girls, Nicole Hadley, Jessica James, and Kayce Steger are not listed in the FDA report.
On December 1, 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal, was on Ritalin, when he started firing a gun during a prayer meeting at a high school in West Paducah, Kentucky, killing Jessica, 17, Kayce, 15, and 14-year-old Nicole, and wounding five other students, including one who is paralyzed.
That morning, Michael rode to school with his sister Kelly. He wrapped the guns in a blanket and passed the bundle off as a school project. A couple of days before the rampage, Michael had stole the guns from a friend’s garage.
Michael’s sister Kelly witnessed the shootings and told police that had she not seen Michael’s face, she would not have recognized him as her brother.
According to his friends, at the time of the shooting, Michael suffered from severe paranoia and unreasonable fears and believed that his friends and family were plotting against him. Among his fears were people hiding in the air vents in his home which caused Michael to cover the vents in the bathroom with towels every time he took a shower.
He feared that people were beneath the floorboards waiting to cut off his feet with a chainsaw and slept with knives under his mattress in case he needed to fight off a burglar.
At the FDA hearings, nobody mentioned the Ritalin-related injuries to Shelley Schaberg, 17, Melissa “Missy” Jenkins, 15, Kelly Hard, 16, Craig Keene, 15, and Hollan Holm, 14, who were all wounded by Michael at the school that day.
Michael pleaded guilty to the charges by reason of mental illness and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years. Lucky for Michael, Kentucky law prohibits giving the death penalty to anyone under the age of 16.
The March 10, 1998, Ritalin-related deaths of Gerald and Cynthia Franklin of Huntsville, Alabama, are not noted in the FDA report, and neither are the Ritalin-related injuries to their 3 children, Sara, Timothy and Christopher Franklin
The Franklin’s 17-year-old first-born son, Jeffrey was on the prescribed drugs of Ritalin, Prozac, and Klonopin, an anti-convulsant, when he killed his parents as they came home from work and then attempted to murder his 12-year-old sister and two brothers aged 9 and 6. Jeffrey’s 11-year-old sister Stacey, was not at home at the time of the attacks.
A doctor maintained that that Jeff had ADHD, accompanied by depression and prescribed the drug cocktail to supposedly treat his condition.
A neighbor called the police after he found one of the children wandering around outside in a daze, all bloody and crying.
Gerald and Cynthia, were dead when the police arrived and the wounded siblings were taken to the Huntsville Hospital. “The children all had very serious head and face injuries from what looked like an ax and some sort of large, blunt force object,” hospital spokeswoman Terri Bryson told police.
Police reports noted that all five victims had massive head wounds, slashes to their necks and faces, and blood-soaked clothes and that Jeff was shirtless and covered with blood when arrested.
Police said Jeff bludgeoned his family members with a bloody hatchet found in the home, that had a blade on one side and a hammer on the other.
According to legal documents, Jeff told police that he had snorted crushed Ritalin pills and had not slept for days. Police investigator Chester McCutcheon told the judge in the case that Jeff had described an out-of-body experience and hallucinations in which he believed that horns were growing from his head.
Police reports said that prior to his arrest, Jeff lead police on a high-speed car chase and that he spat, cursed and made obscene gestures when police and news crews caught up with him after he crashed into a fence, in a residential neighborhoods in southeast Huntsville.
In the early stages of court proceedings, the press reported that a quiet, docile Jeffrey Franklin seemed like a different youth than the teen arrested on March 10, 1998. Police interviews with classmates and neighbors turned up no leads as to what may have triggered the murders.
In 1999, Jeff was found mentally incompetent to stand trial but a couple years later, following treatment, it was determined that he was able to stand trial. The defense entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental defect. Three days before the trial was set to begin, Jeff pleaded guilty to killing his parents and attempting to murder three siblings.
This young man who obviously experienced a severe adverse reaction after being placed on a daily cocktail of 3 dangerous drugs, was sentenced to 5 life terms in prison. His name should be included in the list of people having adverse effects.
The names of Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson should also be listed in FDA records under ADHD drug-related adverse effects.
On March 24, 1998 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 14-year-old Mitchell Johnson shot and killed one teacher, four students, and wounded 10 others people. According to published reports, the boys were on Ritalin.
Andrew Golden and Mitchell staged a false fire alarm and then began shooting students and teachers as they exited the building. An Arkansas judge found the 2 children guilty of 5 counts of capital murder and 10 counts of battery. The boys received the maximum sentence possible under Arkansas juvenile laws: placement in a juvenile facility until they turn 18, possibly until they turn 21, if a facility is built for 18-21 year olds.
Young Kip Kinkel’s name should be listed on the front page of FDA reports on adverse drug reactions.
On May 20, 1998, Kip was only 14-years-old on the night that he murdered both of his parents. When he got up the next morning, he went to Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon and shot and killed two students and wounded 22 more people.
After being diagnosed with dyslexia, Kip had been was placed on Ritalin and was later prescribed Prozac as well.
On the day he killed his parents, Kip was arrested at school and charged with possession of a firearm in a public building and receiving a stolen weapon. According to Detective Al Warthen who interviewed him, Kip was very upset and worried about what his parents were going to think while waiting for his father Bill to come to the station and get him.
According to Kip’s confession, at about 3 that afternoon, his father was sitting at the kitchen counter drinking coffee when Kip took a 22 rifle from his room, got ammunition from his father’s room, and shot his father once in the back of his head.
After that, Kip told police detectives, “I didn’t know what to do so I dragged him into the bathroom and then put a white sheet over him.”
After killing his father, Kip said that he waited for his mother to come home. According to his taped confession, when she drove in the garage at about 6:30 pm, he told her that he loved her, and then shot her twice in the back of the head, three times in the face and one time through the heart. He then dragged her body across the garage floor and covered her with a sheet.
After killing his parents, Kip apparently wrote a note that police found on the coffee table in the family living room that said:
“I have just killed my parents! I don’t know what is happening. I love my mom and dad so much. I just got two felonies on my record. My parents can’t take that! It would destroy them. The embarrassment would be too much for them. They couldn’t live with themselves. I’m so sorry. I am a horrible son. I wish I had been aborted. I destroy everything I touch. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I didn’t deserve them. They were wonderful people. It’s not their fault or the fault of any person, organization, or television show. My head just doesn’t work right. God damn these VOICES inside my head. I want to die. I want to be gone. But I have to kill people. I don’t know why. I am so sorry! Why did God do this to me. I have never been happy. I wish I was happy. I wish I made my mother proud. I am nothing! I tried so hard to find happiness. But you know me I hate everything. I have no other choice. What have I become? I am so sorry.”
The next morning, Kip filled his backpack with ammunition and carried 3 guns. He taped a hunting knife to his leg, wore a long trenchcoat to conceal the weapons, and drove his mother’s car to school.
Security cameras showed him walking down the hall towards the school cafeteria when he shot Ben Walker and Ryan Atteberry before entering the cafeteria and firing off what remained of the 50 round clip of a 22 caliber semiautomatic and one round from a handgun. By the time five classmates wrestled Kip to floor, 2 students were dead and 25 others were injured.
Theresa Miltonberger, was the most severely injured student to survive and spent 65 days in the hospital. She has bullet fragments permanently lodged in her brain causing cognitive and memory impairment.
Kip pled guilty to four counts of murder and 26 counts of attempted murder even though he had no idea of what caused him to commit the crimes.
On November 2, 1999, after a 6-day hearing that included testimony by psychiatrists, a statement by Kip’s sister’s asking for leniency, and statements by victims, this 14-year-old child, who was placed on a daily cocktail of dangerous drugs through no fault of his own, was sentenced to 111 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.
In requesting leniency, Kip’s sister, Kristin explained to the judge how she had tried to prepare Kip for when he would have to listen to statements from victims and told him to “just tune out … to a safe place in his memory, and not listen to the victims when they talk, because they are angry and going to say things they really don’t mean.”
Kristin relayed how Kip stopped her and said, “No, I owe it to them to listen.”
The name of every student harmed at the school that day, should appear in the FDA report under drug-related adverse events.
The Adderall-related death of an infant in Grand Forks, North Dakota was not listed in the report either. On January 30, 1999, Ron Ehlis killed his 5-week-old daughter Tyra, ten days after his doctor wrote him a prescription for Adderall.
As a child, Ron was put on Ritalin and when he went to see a psychiatrist at age 26, because he was having a hard time with his college studies, without conducting any type of tests, the doctor prescribed Adderall.
After a few days, he did as the doctor instructed and doubled the dose, and Ron’s nightmare began.
He described delusions, hallucinations, and out-of-body experiences, including talking with God and his dead grandfather after he upped the dose. Believing to be acting under God’s orders, Ron shot his ﬁve-week-old daughter and then shot himself in the stomach. The baby did not survive.
Ron was charged with murder, but the charges were dismissed after several doctors testiﬁed that he suffered from an amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder, caused by the Adderall and did not have the necessary criminal responsibility. Angie Moreno, the baby’s mother, testiﬁed that Ron did not act like himself from the ﬁrst day he took the Adderall.
The name Tyra Ehlis should definitely be listed under Adderall-related death.
Shawn Cooper was 15-years-old and on Ritalin, on April 16, 1999, when he took a 12-gauge shotgun to his high school in Notus, Idaho, and held the entire school hostage for about 20 minutes. Shawn fired two shotgun rounds, wounding one student, and narrowly missing other classmates and teachers. Prior to that fateful day, Shawn was best noticed in his position of outfielder on the school baseball team.
There was nothing mentioned at the FDA hearings about Shawn Cooper’s Ritalin-related adverse event.
Thomas Solomon’s name is nowhere to be found either.
In 1999, Thomas Solomon Jr, or TJ to his friends, was a 15-year-old sophomore on Ritalin when he brought a rifle to Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia on May 20, and shot six students. The event happened one month to the day after the Columbine school massacre.
His classmates said TJ had a dazed expression on his face as he began firing the gun. He was known to be a good shot, but did not seem to be aiming at people. If he was trying to imitate the Columbine shooters, TJ was apparently a bad actor.
The press noted that he had access to his stepfather’s high-caliber guns but brought a low-powered rifle to the school.
The shooting ended quickly and TJ backed out the door and dropped the rifle. He then kneeled on ground, pulled a 357 magnum out of his bookbag, and put the barrel of the gun in his mouth.
The assistant principal, Cecil Brinkley reportedly calmed TJ, by saying: “It’s going to be all right, put it down.”
TJ removed the gun from his mouth and collapsed in Mr Brinkley’s arms sobbing and said: “Oh, my God, I’m so scared.”
TJ’s classmates expressed total disbelief over his behavior. “He’d be the last person I’d think would do something like this,” classmate Ryan Rosa told Time Magazine. “He was normal. Just like me,” Ryan said.
At the time, the press described TJ as a quiet, teen who was literally a Boy Scout, who attended church regularly and played baseball on a county league.
School Superintendent, Donald Peccia, told reporters that school records contained no warning signs. “The disciplinary record would not indicate he had been any significant trouble,” Peccia said. “We had no reason to suspect this student at all.”
In addition to the injured that were shot, there were 2 other very lucky students that day. When the shooting began, one girl held a book to her chest and later discovered that a bullet had penetrated the book to page 162. Another girl found bullet fragments in her bookbag the next day but the spiral binding of a notebook had stopped the bullet.
This never-before violent, Ritalin-drugged child, was sentenced to 40 years in a Georgia State Prison, where at 17, he attempted suicide by swallowing antidepressants.
The name of every student injured by TJ at the school that day should be listed in FDA records under adverse drug events.
The death of young Jessica Curry in Spokane, Washington is also not mentioned in the FDA report.
In late September 1999, Jessica was a happy, 8-year-old third grader as she sat on her mother, Sharon’s lap in the passenger seat of her mother’s Mustang convertible, discussing what she wanted to wear for Halloween.
After she told her mother that she wanted a princess costume, Sharon who was on Adderall at the time, stabbed Jessica 5 times and then stabbed herself. A short time later a policeman found Sharon and Jessica still sitting in car in the driveway, all covered in blood. The mother lived, but Jessica did not.
When the officer asked Sharon what happened, she asked him for a cigarette.
Sharon was found not guilty of all charges, by reason of insanity brought on by the Adderall. Doctors for the state and the defense agreed that she was insane when she killed Jessica and that her mental state was so acute that she could not distinguish between right and wrong.
Sharon sued her doctor alleging he prescribed an excessive dose of Adderall and caused her to kill her daughter. The lawsuit was settled out of court, but neither side would reveal the details.
The death of three-year-old toddler, Nathaniel Branson, is also not mentioned in the FDA report.
On March 18, 2000, Nat’s mother Dawn was driving in Scottsdale, Arizona with her son in the car when she suffered a psychotic episode while on Adderall.
According to court documents, Dawn heard a voice saying: “Let go of the steering wheel and gas. God will drive the car don’t you trust him?”
She did as the voice said, and a car accident followed which resulted in her son’s death and serious injuries to Dawn. Prior to being prescribed Adderall, she had never been psychotic and since she quit taking the drug, there have been no further psychotic episodes.
The FDA did not include the Adderall-related death of Errol Sr in the report.
On the evening of April 25, 2003, Errol Sr and his wife, Janet, went to their son, Errol Jr’s home near Lafayette, Indiana, to check on Jr because the father and son had argued the night before.
According to court testimony, Errol Jr was on Adderall when he met his father at the door with a gun and began shooting, while Errol Sr fled, and eventually collapsed in a ditch across the road.
The son then reloaded the gun, got a flashlight and went and shot his father several more times as he lay bleeding in the ditch, while his mother watched in horror.
At the criminal trial, Dr John Pless, a forensic pathologist from Indiana University, testified that Errol Sr was shot 10 times. Dr Pless testified that seven of the most severe injuries were to the chest and abdomen and that one bullet entered his skull.
Errol’s Jr’s sister, Carly, testified that she believed her brother’s addiction to Adderall caused him to develop a mental illness in the 6 months leading up to the murder. “I watched him growing up by my side in a good home and a good family, and he was a good boy,” she said. “It was complete chaos in our lives for six months before this event.”
At the trial, two court-appointed psychiatrists testified that Errol Jr was insane and unable to appreciate right from wrong at the time of the murder. Dr Stephen Berger identified the problem as drug-induced psychosis brought on by Adderall.
Errol Jr testified at the trial and said that spirits convinced him that his father was the devil and that he needed to be killed.
The jury took less than two hours to reject the insanity defense and find him guilty of murder and the judge imposed the maximum 70-year prison sentence allowed.
A formal statement issued by Errol Jr’s mother and two sisters said: “On behalf of Janet, Erica and Carly, we were surprised and deeply saddened that Errol did not receive guilty but mentally ill so that he could have the medical care he needs. It is clear to us that this is necessary, and in the face of this tragedy, we still love him.”
At the February 10, 2006 hearing, the FDA advisory panel recommended black box warning labels for ADHD drugs and said that a medication guide should be provided to parents and patients when the drugs are prescribed.
In light of the tragedies above, and the rapidly spreading addiction to these drugs all across America, any warning by public health officials in 2006 is too little too late.