Indiana police have arrested a woman after they say she drove her 16-year-old to attempt suicide and helped ensure the attempt was a success.
40-year-old Sabrina Howard of Muncie has been charged with neglect of a dependent and causing suicide, both felonies, after investigators say she caused her suicidal son to take a handful of her prescription medication, then failed to render aid.
On July 10, Howard confronted her son, Charles Howard, about 20 missing Xanax, and 26 missing Lortabs. She said her son denied taking them, but that he had ”slow speech” and appeared “groggy.”
Before he fell asleep on the couch, she warned him that if he had consumed that amount, then he had taken enough to kill him.
Despite this, Howard did not call for help and left him sleeping on the couch.
She told investigators she would check on him periodically, but called 911 eight hours later when she noticed he was not breathing and had turned an unnatural shade of gray.
But Howard’s call for help was too little, too late.
Charles would be pronounced dead and Howard would be arrested two months later, after police received the full toxicology report.
“I think she believes she is not responsible for his death. I think putting all the pieces of the puzzle together we came to the conclusion she was, and that’s why she was arrested,” said Muncie Police detective, Sgt. Linda Cook.
One of those pieces is the fact that Howard was aware of her son’s fragile mental state because in January she took him to the emergency room after he threatened to kill himself.
The doctors would recommend that Howard check her son into a mental health facility, but she opted to take him home because “he didn’t want to go.”
Another piece is that family members say the teen was under duress over his mother’s addiction to morphine.
Howard admitted to police that she used to be an intravenous morphine abuser, but officers noted what appeared to be fresh track marks on her left wrist and hand. Her family would confirm that Howard is still using.
But even with that info, the causing suicide charge is going to be problematic for prosecutors and my guess is that they will eventually drop it.
The law has been on Indiana’s books since 1976, but is rarely used — mainly because it is so hard to prove. The law applies to “a person who intentionally causes another human being, by force, duress, or deception, to commit suicide.”
This means that prosecutors will somehow have to prove that Howard’s actions drove her son to commit suicide, and that this was her intent.