Man faces trial in date rape drug overdose
Dennis Schwendiman is accused of giving a 22-year-old man a drink of drug-laced Gatorade at a local fitness center.
A former coworker of Dennis Schwendiman's testified Monday that she asked for a drink of his Gatorade while at L.A. Fitness in Falls, but he refused.
Soon after, Pamela Wright said she watched Schwendiman give a gulp of the beverage to Stephen Krueger, 22, who died shortly afterward five years ago. Bucks County First Assistant District Attorney David Zellis and Falls police say the Gatorade was laced with a fatal dose of gamma hydroxybutyric acid, better known as GHB or "scoops.''
GHB is an illegal depressant and intoxicant, which frequently is seen by law enforcement in date rape cases. It's also abused at raves, all-night dance parties and by bodybuilders, prosecutors said. It's said to enhance a person's workout, according to testimony.
"Dennis asked Stephen if he wanted a sip and he said yes,'' Wright testified before Falls District Judge Jan Vislosky at Schwendiman's preliminary hearing. "Dennis said to Stephen, 'Try it, you'll like it.' "
Wright first told her story to a grand jury in October 2004, which was called on to help in the long investigation into Krueger's death. Schwendiman, 33, formerly of Middletown who now lives in Elmont, N.Y., moved several times during the probe. He surrendered in February when he learned he'd been charged with delivering the fatal dose of GHB at the gym on Oxford Valley Road and lying to the grand jury.
Kahlil A. Salazar, who was Schwendiman's supervisor at L.A. Fitness, also testified Monday.
"I heard Dennis talk about GHB or scoops," Salazar said. "I know it is a liquid you put in a drink and it gives you the effect of drinking. I have done it myself a few times at parties but did not approve of it at work and, at one point, I had to talk to him about it. I gave him a verbal warning there would be action taken if I saw him under the influence again. One time, Dennis came into the club and looked uneven. He looked pale and out of balance, not focused, but did not smell like alcohol. He went into the kids club to sleep it off.''
Falls Detective John Martin testified he was called to Frankford Hospitals Bucks County campus for a death investigation the morning of Feb. 24, 2004.
"I met with Dennis, and he told me he went to L.A. Fitness and met with Krueger. He talked about having a few drinks after a workout and they met with another employee. Dennis told me he saw Stephen and that his physical demeanor changed (since work). He said Stephen was holding a Gatorade and seemed wasted," Martin said.
Martin's investigation shows Schwendiman drove Krueger to Schwendiman's parents' house before taking him to the hospital. Martin said he later searched the house and found a bottle of Gatorade on the floor in an upstairs bedroom.
"Stephen Krueger had been in that room sleeping. I have the certificate of death and it shows that Krueger died from a GHB overdose," Martin said.
A drug scan of that bottle of Gatorade showed it contained GHB, Martin said.
Vislosky upheld all the charges against Schwendiman, who will face trial in county court in Doylestown. His formal arraignment is set for May 8 on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver the drug, perjury and false swearing. He remains free on $75,000 unsecured bail.
Zellis said after five years, Schwendiman finally stood before a judge. GHB cases are very hard to prosecute and the grand jury took time to build a case against him, he said.
Witnesses told the grand jury Schwendiman was a frequent GHB user, but that Krueger did not use the drug.
George Mattar can be reached at 215-949-4165 or gmattar@phillyBurbs.com.