Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Police: Pair gave drugs to children



By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Delhi Township man and woman are accused of giving the woman's 12-year-old twins and five other sixth-graders nitrous oxide and marijuana, as well as alcohol.

A Hamilton County grand jury indicted Melony Wikette, 28, and Chris Drescher, 33, Tuesday on nine charges each, including endangering children, corrupting a minor with drugs and abusing harmful intoxicants. Neither had been arrested Tuesday.

Wikette told authorities she knew allowing the children, between the ages of 12 and 14, to use drugs was wrong. It remained unclear why the adults may have given drugs to the children.

"It's hard to believe anyone would treat children in this manner," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen.

The children passed out, felt dizzy and heard strange voices after using the drugs, authorities said.

Delhi Township Police Cpl. Joe Middendorf said he believes Wikette didn't understand the danger associated with the drugs.

Drescher introduced the pre-teens to nitrous oxide, telling them it was harmless helium and that if inhaled would make their voices sound funny, authorities said. When blended with oxygen, nitrous oxide is used legally as laughing gas. But used illegally, the gas is inhaled and produces a short high. It replaces oxygen in the lungs and can kill a user by asphyxiation.

On one occasion, Wikette gave the children brownies made with marijuana, authorities said. On another, they took the children with them to buy marijuana.

Middendorf, a resource officer where some of the children go to school, discovered the drug use in February after asking some of the students about excessive absences.

About the same time, a relative of the twins learned what was going on and called the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services.

The drug use had been going on since the beginning of the year, Middendorf said.

Dr. Robert Anthenelli, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, said the drugs could damage a developing brain.

"Inhalants are addictive. Usually children get into them before they have access to other illicit drugs," Anthenelli said.

The twins are currently living with a relative.

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




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