A New Windsor woman pleaded guilty to manslaughter yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court in the death of her 27-year-old nephew, who overdosed after eating the gel from a pain-medication patch that sometimes is abused for its heroin-like high.
Regina Raye Kesselring, 47, of the 300 block of Main St. acknowledged that she sold the patch to her nephew Steven E. Spivey for $50. She is to receive no more than 18 months in jail under the terms of the guilty plea, which she offered yesterday at what was to be a hearing on the legality of the police search and her confession.
Kesselring, who takes a variety of medications and receives medical disability payments, leaned on her metal cane toward defense attorney Michele M. Shimek during the hearing yesterday. She said little, other than that she understood the proceedings and her rights and wanted to plead guilty.
Spivey was at her apartment the night of Feb. 1, and police and paramedics were called there about 2 a.m. Feb. 2, according to the statement of facts read by Carroll Senior Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett.
Later, Daggett said, police learned that Spivey was a heroin user who had begged his aunt for one of her Duragesic patches -- which contain fentanyl to treat chronic pain. He paid her for it, tore it open and ate the contents at the kitchen table, the prosecutor said.
Shimek added to the prosecutor's account Kesselring's concern that her nephew would have driven to Baltimore to buy heroin if she had not sold him the patch.
Daggett noted that Kesselring did not tell paramedics or staff at Carroll County General Hospital that her unconscious nephew had eaten the patch. She originally claimed that Spivey arrived at her home about 10 a.m. to play cards but began to fall asleep and went to lie down in another room, where a second man at the apartment found him an hour later, blue and unresponsive.
"This is a sad case," Daggett said after the hearing. "It may not be a heroin overdose, but certainly it was caused by heroin addiction. But for heroin addiction, he wouldn't have taken this drug, using it as a substitute."
The medical examiner found Spivey's death Feb. 4 resulted from alcohol and narcotic intoxication -- from the fentanyl, Daggett said.
Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled that sufficient evidence existed to find Kesselring guilty of the manslaughter charge and one of distributing a controlled, dangerous prescription drug. The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled sentencing in March. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Minutes after the proceedings, as she was leaving the courthouse annex building, Kesselring fell and struck her head at the doorway, her lawyer, said. An ambulance was called to take her for a precautionary checkup.