Mother faces murder charge

Infant died with high levels of methadone

November 19, 2005|By NICK SHIELDS AND JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | NICK SHIELDS AND JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTERS

A 35-year-old Dundalk woman whose drug use caused her to give birth to a addicted daughter two months ago was charged with murder after the girl was found dead with toxic levels of methadone in her system.

Gina Camponeschi, 35, of the 6900 block of Homeway Ave. in Dundalk was arrested and charged Thursday night with first-degree murder in the death of Adriana Jean Richards, Baltimore County police said. Bail was set yesterday at $50,000.

Authorities would not say how they believe the child ingested methadone, but two bottles of the synthetic opiate, prescribed to heroin addicts to ease the pain of withdrawal, were discovered at the house. Police would not say how the methadone was obtained.

FOR THE RECORD - An article Saturday about murder charges being brought against a Dundalk woman whose daughter died with toxic levels of methadone in her system included an incorrect reference to when the baby had been born addicted to drugs. The girl was born in July.
The Sun regrets the errors.

During her pregnancy, Camponeschi used drugs, and Adriana was born addicted, according to police, who would not reveal which substance caused her addition. The infant, born in July, spent a month in a pediatric hospital until she was free from the addiction. The infant was then returned to Camponeschi's care, police said.

Police were called to Camponeschi's home Sept. 11, where Adriana was found in cardiac arrest. The infant was rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center where she died, police said. The state medical examiner ruled that she died of methadone intoxication.

Camponeschi was the only person caring for Adriana during the final days of her life, and the baby was being bottle-fed, said police spokeswoman Vickie Warehime. This would apparently rule out Adriana accidentally ingesting the drug through breast milk.

A spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services said yesterday that state law prevented her from saying whether the agency had had any involvement with the woman and the child.

Speaking generally, the spokeswoman, Maureen Robinson, said that hospitals routinely report the birth of a drug-addicted child to local social service officials, which prompts an investigation of child neglect.

The social worker also typically determines whether the home is a safe place for the child or whether alternative arrangements should be made.

It's unclear whether Camponeschi was enrolled in a methadone program at a drug treatment center or had an illegal supply.

Federal regulations allow methadone clinics to dispense a limited number of take-home dosages on a scale that increases over time.

The Awakenings rehabilitation center in Timonium is the only methadone clinic to which the Baltimore County Health Department refers patients. Its program director, Herman Jones, said Camponeschi was not enrolled at the clinic. But, he said, patients must bring to the clinic a locked box and key before they are granted take-home privileges with methadone.

"There's a strict orientation," he said of safe-storage procedures shared with patients.

Take-home doses, he said, can have a real advantage in helping recovering addicts regain a sense of their pre-addiction lives.

Mike Gimbel, director of substance abuse education at Sheppard Pratt and the county's former substance abuse director, said permitting home dosages of methadone is a bad idea.

"You're taking drug addicts who have been on heroin for five, 10, 15 and 20 years who are obviously very unreliable individuals and you're giving them a narcotic drug to take home and to take responsibly," he said.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com

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