A New Windsor woman who pleaded guilty to manslaughter after selling her 27-year-old nephew a fatal patch of pain medication sometimes abused for its heroin-like effect will be released in May, six months earlier than if she completed the sentence imposed last year.
Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. deemed Regina Raye Kesselring, 48, well enough to remain in jail for four more months.
"This is a tough call for me," said Burns, who will retire Friday after 25 years on the bench. He said he understood why prosecutors would want her to serve the rest of her sentence but could also sympathize with family members who want her out of jail.
Kesselring's attorney, Michele M. Shimek, said her client had "medical and intellectual limitations" that prevented her from exercising good judgment on a night when she was heavily medicated. She did not intend to kill her nephew, Shimek said, and has been remorseful ever since.
David P. Daggett, the county's senior assistant state's attorney, said Kesselring had sold pain patches to Steven E. Spivey twice before to supplement her income.
Kesselring lived on disability payments of $545 a month, according to charging documents.
Daggett also asked that the court remember that Spivey's death left two young children without a father.
After the judge announced his decision, Kesselring turned around and smiled at her mother and sister, who were in court awaiting the decision.
Burns reduced her sentence from 18 months in the Carroll County Detention Center to 12 months and changed her three years of probation from supervised to unsupervised.
Kesselring of the 300 block of Main St. was arrested in July 2002 on manslaughter and drug charges in the Feb. 4 death of Spivey, her sister's son.
Court records show that Spivey, who relatives and friends said was trying to kick a heroin addiction, had visited Kesselring's house late Feb. 1 to ask his aunt for one of her Duragesic patches.
The patches, which contain the painkiller fentanyl, were prescribed to Kesselring for neuropathy, a nerve disorder, her attorney said.
Court records show that Spivey had been out earlier that evening with his mother and brother drinking beer at a local bar. They told police he might have used marijuana.
According to charging documents, Spivey paid his aunt $50 for one of the patches. Kesselring said she thought it was better for him to buy it from her than to go to Baltimore for heroin.
Several witnesses told police they saw Spivey cut open the patch and ingest the drug.
When the Westminster man started to fall asleep during a card game, others at the apartment told him to lie down on a nearby couch. An hour later, they checked on him and called 911 after they found that he was not breathing.
Spivey died two days later at Carroll County General Hospital after his family allowed him to be taken off life support.
He died of a combination of alcohol and fentanyl, according to a medical examiner's report.
The Duragesic patches, produced by Janssen Pharmaceutica, have been on the market for a decade.
Data from the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show an increase in fentanyl abuse in recent years.
Kesselring pleaded guilty to manslaughter at a hearing in December 2002. In May, she was sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter and two years for drug distribution. Burns suspended all but 18 months.