Verla Ann Still Smoking Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on September 12, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, VERLA ANN STILL SMOKING, a 41-year-old resident of Browning and an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and making false statements. Sentencing has been set for January 7, 2013. She is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph E. Thaggard, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
An individual identified here as C.G. would have testified that she lived at STILL SMOKING's residence in Browning for a period including March 18-19, 2011. She would have testified that the victim, identified here as R.W., was at STILL SMOKING's residence on March 18-19, 2011. At about 8:30 p.m. on March 19, 2011, the victim became unresponsive while sleeping on a couch at STILL SMOKING's residence and was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Browning where the victim was ultimately pronounced dead at the hospital.
A forensic pathologist and deputy medical examiner performed an autopsy on the victim's' body and stated that the victim died as the result of "mixed toxicity" stemming from her ingestion of drugs. Oxycodone was found in a lethal level in the victim's blood. Gabapentin was found at a high, though not lethal, level in the victim's blood. Dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough suppressant, was also found in the victim's blood. The pathologist would have testified that the Gabapentin and Dextromethorphan could have contributed to the lethality of the Oxycodone, but that the Oxycodone was a necessary component in the cause of the victim's death.
On March 19, 2011, STILL SMOKING was interviewed about the circumstances of the victim's death. STILL SMOKING stated that the victim used drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and pain pills. STILL SMOKING also stated that the victim had overdosed on cocaine six to eight weeks earlier and was hospitalized.
STILL SMOKING also stated that she had planned to have her prescriptions filled on March 18, 2011, but was unable to do so and that she planned to have her prescriptions filled on March 20, 2011. STILL SMOKING advised that she had her son store her drugs in a safe in his room.
Law enforcement later determined that STILL SMOKING's claim during the March 19, 2011 interview that she had not filled her prescriptions on March 18, 2011, was false. The Kalispell pharmacy confirmed that STILL SMOKING's prescriptions for 210 Oxycodone and 60 Clomazepam were, in fact, filled on March 18, 2011.
In addition, the pharmacy confirmed that on March 16, 2011, STILL SMOKING picked up 120 Gabapentin, a prescription, non-controlled substance.
On March 29, 2011, STILL SMOKING was interviewed again and at this time stated that she had given her drugs to the victim for safekeeping.
Another witness, H.S., would have testified that she was present at STILL SMOKING's home on March 19, 2011. The witness stated that she observed STILL SMOKING give Oxycodone and Gabapentin to the victim for consumption.
STILL SMOKING faces possible penalties of 8 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.