Death Of Girl, 6, Is Ruled A Homicide

Autopsy Reveals Prescription Drug Overdose As Cause

April 23, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A state medical examiner said yesterday that the death of a 6-year-old Westminster girl, who was found at her East Main Street home Feb. 15, was a homicide.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Donald Wright, who performed the autopsy on Bethany Harpster, said his report, dated yesterday and upgraded from a preliminary report issued Feb. 25, listed the cause of the child's death as an overdose of Roxicodone, a synthetic narcotic prescribed for pain.

Preliminary police reports said a number of prescription medications belonging to Dianne L. Harpster, the girl's mother, were taken from the home for testing.

State police investigators declined to name the medications found at the Harpster home in the 400 block of E. Main St.

"Our investigation is continuing and we are not ready to give out that information," said Cpl. Ronald Cullison, a state police detective assigned to the Westminster Barracks.

Deputy State's Attorney Marcie Sweren Wogan said yesterday that her office is reviewing the state police investigation.

No one has been charged, she said. The manner of death, as listed in state medical examiner's autopsy reports, is not the equivalent of a criminal charge.

"We are still gathering additional toxicologic information and reviewing all the evidence to decide what charges will be filed," Wogan said.

In a statement issued yesterday, state police said: "It has been determined that [the child] died as a result of an overdose of prescription medication, which had been prescribed to her mother. This medication was administered to Bethany Harpster by her mother."

Wogan said it was not uncommon for state medical examiners to upgrade preliminary autopsy reports as additional evidence is provided by investigators.

Wright said he knew about the Roxicodone found in the home before he performed the autopsy. He said his findings confirmed that the child, who attended kindergarten at Robert Moton Elementary School, died of drug intoxication, that is, an overdose of that medication.

Wogan said Roxicodone is a controlled dangerous substance and is not intended for children.

Police initially reported that the child's mother told them she went to awaken her daughter about 9: 45 a.m. and found her dead. She called 911 immediately, police said.

When no obvious signs of injury were found, the autopsy was ordered.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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