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The Toledo Blade
By MARK REITER, BLADE STAFF WRITER
Article published Thursday, July 29, 2004
A Sylvania Township man who claims an antidepressant drug he was taking caused him to attack and stab his wife was sentenced yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. William J. Heck, 35, was sentenced to six months in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker, for the Feb. 22 stabbing of his wife, Angelia, in their home at 2733 Westmar Ct.
Judge Ruth Ann Franks suspended the jail sentence and placed Mr. Heck on probation for three years. He pleaded guilty June 10 to misdemeanor assault.
The defendant’s attorney, Spiros Cocoves, and Mrs. Heck told Judge Franks that Paxil, a prescription drug Mr. Heck was taking for depression, caused the violent outburst.
The couple was in bed watching television about 4:30 p.m. when Mr. Heck began stabbing his wife. Mrs. Heck struggled to keep her composure as she asked Judge Franks to give her husband of nearly two years a light sentence.
“I am not an abused woman. I strongly feel we are both victims from this drug Paxil. We both are suffering from that terrible day, and we will continue to do so for a long time,” she said. “Punishing him is only going to add to our pain and suffering.”
Paxil, a top-selling antidepressant, has been the subject of lawsuits for allegedly causing some children and adolescents to become violent and suicidal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended in June, 2003, that Paxil not be given to adolescents and children for depression, and recently required antidepressant makers to strengthen suicide warnings on labels of antidepressant medicines.
Authorities said Mrs. Heck, 34, was stabbed about six times in the head and the neck and suffered defensive wounds on her right hand that required stitches. She was treated at Toledo Hospital and released the next day.
Mr. Heck was indicted on one count of felonious assault. However, prosecutors reduced the charge after they learned Mrs. Heck would be unwilling to testify at trial.
“I could have presented a prima-facie case against the defendant without Mrs. Heck’s cooperation. Whether or not that would have been sufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could have been questionable,” said Tracy Sniderhan, an assistant county prosecutor who handled the case.
Judge Franks also ordered Mr. Heck to continue counseling sessions with a psychiatrist and that evaluations be submitted every three months to his probation officer.
In a memorandum to the court, Mr. Cocoves said the crime was among the most unusual cases he has encountered in nearly 20 years as a lawyer. “The episode certainly represents aberrant behavior in the most-true meaning of the term, ” he wrote.
At sentencing, Mr. Cocoves said Mr. Heck was prescribed Paxil for work-related anxiety about four months prior to the attack, and his doctor increased the dosage about two-months into the prescription. Mr. Heck is no longer taking the drug.
A spokesman for British-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC, the maker of Paxil, did return phone calls seeking comment.
Last year, the New York Attorney General accused GlaxoSmithKline in a civil lawsuit of hiding negative data and exaggerating the effectiveness of the drug. Glaxo denied the allegations.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6009.