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OxyContin Vermont Stops Paying Welfare Recipients

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© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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OxyContin Murder: Man Pleads Guilty 
Faces Up to 81 Years in Prison

The Associated Press Reported on July 24, 2001 that Robert Stallard, 43, faces up to 81 years in prison for what is believed to be the first murder charge related to OxyContin, the powerful painkiller blamed for dozens of fatal overdoses across the country.  Stallard pleaded guilty Monday to murder, drug distribution and unlawful disposal of a human body.

"All I can do is pray and hope for the best," Stallard said before being led back to jail.

Nicholas Dickerson, 40, died after coming to Stallard's apartment last September in search of the prescription painkiller. Stallard admitted he injected OxyContin into the arm of his partially paralyzed friend.

Stallard later found his friend dead, panicked and dragged the body outside before calling 911, police said.

Authorities decided that selling Dickerson the drug and helping him inject it was tantamount to shooting him with a gun. Defense attorney Penny Nimmo said there was no malice involved and she would seek to reduce the murder charge to manslaughter before next month's sentencing.

"Nick asked to be injected and he got what he asked for," Nimmo said. "It wasn't as if it was an innocent person who got held down and injected with drugs."

Gregg Wood, a health care fraud investigator for the U.S. attorney's office who monitors OxyContin-related crimes nationwide, said he knows of no other murder charges resulting from an OxyContin overdose.

OxyContin is a slow-release narcotic that is widely prescribed for moderate to severe chronic pain resulting from such problems as arthritis, back trouble and cancer. One pill is designed to last 12 hours, but those who abuse OxyContin usually crush the medicine and then snort or inject it, producing a quick, heroin-like high.

The federally approved drug has been linked to at least 120 overdose deaths nationwide. In May, drugmaker Purdue Pharma suspended shipments of its largest dose, the 160-milligram tablet, and took steps to make people aware of dangers linked to the drug.

Dickerson's brother, Larry, said he hoped the defendant died behind bars.

"Robert's got a life ahead of him. Robert has his wife and children," he said. "Nick has none of this. The only thing we've got of Nick is memories."

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