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Father charged with murder after son's overdose (03/10/2013)
By Chris Rogers

A Minnesota City man has been accused of murder following his son's death. Jeffery Jon Schumacher Sr., 58, allegedly provided two methadone pills to his son, Jeffery Jon Schumacher Jr., 34, of Goodview, shortly before Schumacher Jr. died of a drug overdose on May 8, 2012, in Goodview.

Schumacher Jr.'s death was the result of mixed toxicity from methadone and an anti-depressant called Venalafaxine, according to the coroner's report.

This murder charge is part of recent trend of murder convictions sought in cases of overdose deaths. The indictments made on Tuesday, March 5, state that Schumacher Sr. "without intent to cause death, proximately caused the death of a human being" by providing a dangerous controlled substance and that he "consciously took chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another."

Schumacher Sr. is also charged with sale of a controlled substance to his son—"sale" includes giving away drugs. In a separate case, he is charged with second-degree sale of a controlled substance to a minor, third-degree sale of a narcotic, and contributing to the delinquency of a child following an incident or incidents that occurred between May 9 and May 24, 2012.

Schumacher Sr. was arrested but has been released on $250,000 bail. He will have an arraignment hearing at the Winona County Courthouse on Monday, March 11.

Under Minnesota law, evidence that is part of a grand jury indictment is not public information, even after indictments are filed, and is only disclosed as part of court proceedings. "What has been presented to the grand jury cannot be disclosed," Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman said. Consequently, most of the details of this story will remain secret until they are brought forward in court.

Grand jury indictments are rare, Sonneman admitted. However, they allow prosecutors to defer to the jury's judgment in serious cases on whether to indict a suspect and what indictments to make.

According to the Winona County Attorney's Office, Schumacher Sr. did have a legal prescription for methadone, a synthetic opiate used as a painkiller and to wean recovering addicts off of heroin and other opiates. Whether Schumacher Sr. was prescribed methadone for pain or as part of a addiction recovery program is unknown at this time.

Methadone treatment

Typically recovering addicts must take the methadone at a treatment center, in front of a treatment worker, often in liquid form, so that the medicinal drug cannot be smuggled and stashed to be sold or saved up for a stronger high.

Recovering addicts are allowed to take the drug home after 90 days of treatment if a medical director determines they have followed and will follow the rules, a Minneapolis treatment center reports. The amount they are allowed to take home goes up incrementally; after two years patients can take home one month's supply of the drug. Patients are required to submit to tests that, in theory, determine whether they have been taking too much or too little of their prescription.

However, methadone has a high street value and, despite these safety measures, is sometimes sold or abused by prescribed users.

It is easy to see how coming in for daily doses could become a hardship for patients trying to recover; the nearest methadone treatment center is in Rochester. Still, the drug is a powerful opiate that is tempting to recreational users and it is also a dangerous one, capable of slowing users' breathing enough to cause death.

Capitol to consider greater restrictions on Methadone

The state legislature will discuss a proposal from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) that would enact state monitoring rules for patients, require methadone clinics to provide the state with medical information on clients, and strengthen the state's ability to punish violators, according to the DHS. “Heroin and prescription drug addiction is a growing crisis in Minnesota that can lead to tragic consequences,” said DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “The proposals are an important first step to ensuring methadone can be used safely and responsibly as part of this effort.” State Senate and House committees will look at the proposals on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. 


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