ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities woman says she’s fighting to send a man to prison for giving her brother a deadly dose of drugs.
David Summers was a brother and father who was 39 years old when he died in an apartment in St. Paul last Thanksgiving.
His sister says one of his friends admitted to supplying the drug that contributed to Summers’ death.
But proving a case like this can be complicated for both police and prosecutors.
She may have grown up as the older sister.
But, Kelly Summers has spent much more time, acting as a mother, after she and her brother David lost their own 15 years ago. A death, she says he never quite recovered from.
“I always encouraged him I’d always talk to him,” Summers said.
Kelly watched David struggle with an addiction to alcohol that sent him to detox and treatment centers for years. Especially difficult, considering Kelly is a counselor herself and runs a treatment center in Spring Lake Park.
“Say you’re a mechanic or you fix brakes for a living and then you have a close one die in a fiery crash because their brakes went out and they couldn’t stop, you couldn’t save them. That’s what it feels like,” she said.
This past Thanksgiving, she got the call she always feared. Her brother took a nap and a friend couldn’t wake him up.
“He finally just texted me and he said your brother passed away,” Kelly Summers said.
Kelly assumed David’s drinking took his life but his autopsy listed accidental multiple drug toxicity.
David’s friend had texted Kelly saying “48 hours prior to passing [David] drank 1/2 gallon of vodka, 36 hours before he was given 50 milligrams of liquid Benadryl by me. However, I used the same medicine dropper I use for dosing and measuring my methadone with, possibly leaving a trace amount.”
Methadone is a painkiller that also reduces withdrawal symptoms for heroin addicts.
“I think my brother definitely would still be here had it not been for the methadone in his system,” Kelly said.
Kelly assumed the evidence would be enough to bring charges. It wasn’t. In a letter to Kelly, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office explained to prove third-degree murder it “would have to prove that [the] methadone was the cause of [her] brother’s death.”
The attorney’s office said it could not do that because neither the alcohol nor methadone alone would have killed him.
The explanation has done little to change a sister’s mind, determined not to let an addiction define the brother she loved.
“I don’t care what his history was. He also had people that loved him, he had a family and he was 39, he had lots of years of life left,” Kelly said.
In the last five years, Ramsey County charged one third-degree murder case involving drugs. Hennepin County charged 12. Minnesota prosecutors are pushing to improve these investigations so more cases can go forward.
The following is a statement from St. Paul Police on the death of David Summers:
“Our hearts go out to those who have lost family members to drug overdoses. We understand that these cases carry with them deep pain and suffering and can leave survivors wondering who should take responsibility for the loss of their loved one.
“While it’s easy to understand why families would think that all overdoses are criminal — someone sold the drugs, someone bought the drugs, someone took the drugs — proving that overdoses are anything other than an accidental death is incredibly complicated.
“That’s why investigators follow the facts and work closely with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted.
“After a review of the evidence in this case, it was determined that it did not meet the threshold for criminal charging. That doesn’t diminish the family’s loss or invalidate their feelings. It only means that, at this time, the case does not meet the threshold for criminal charges.”
The following is the full statement from the Ramsey County Attorney Office:
“Based on the Saint Paul Police department’s investigation, we do not believe there are sufficient facts to criminally prosecute this case. While third degree murder charges are never easy cases to prove, law enforcement and prosecutors in Minnesota have recently made a concerted effort to improve these investigations so cases can be charged. In fact, as a result, we just charged an individual with Murder in the 3rd Degree in a drug overdose case. Despite these enhanced efforts and our strong desire to hold people accountable for drug overdose deaths, this case cannot be charged based on the limited provable facts currently uncovered. We understand this is hard to accept as a surviving friend or family member, but justice would never be served if we charged people with crimes without sufficient facts, which is why our ethical obligations prevent us from doing so.”