Friday, September 18, 2009  Case goes to jury in overdose death

This was my brother Stephen...

Below is the article in today's Bucks County Courier Times about the trial currently going on in Doyelstown.

Case goes to jury in overdose death

Bucks County Courier Times

A former Bucks County man is accused of lacing a friend's drink with GHB, the date rape drug.

Dennis Schwendiman is either falsely accused by authorities looking to lock someone up for the death of another man or he's someone that provided a lethal drug to his victim and then lied to the grand jury to cover it up.

That's what 12 men and women from Bucks County must decipher as they deliberate the fate of Schwendiman following closing arguments Thursday.

An ex-county resident now living in Elmont, N.Y., Schwendiman, 36, is charged with supplying a drug-laced drink to Stephen Krueger, a former co-worker at LA Fitness in Falls, in 2004. He faces up to 16 years in prison for delivery of a controlled substance, perjury and two counts of false swearing.

The drug that killed the 22-year-old Krueger was gamma hydroxybutyric acid, known as "GHB" or "scoops."

GHB is an illegal depressant and intoxicant that has been used as a date rape drug and abused at all-night dance parties. The substance is also taken by weightlifters, who use it to help them sleep well and recover quickly from a workout.

Bucks County First Assistant District Attorney David Zellis argued that there are significant discrepancies between what Schwendiman told police in an interview shortly after Krueger's death and testimony he gave at a grand jury hearing in 2006.

Testimony from Falls Detective Cpl. John Martin and a re-reading of Schwendiman's 2006 testimony indicates he gave different accounts of how much he knew about GHB at the time of Krueger's death, among other discrepancies.

Eight witnesses testified Thursday. Several said events from five years ago were difficult to recall, and both attorneys read their grand jury testimony.

"This is about consciousness of guilt," Zellis said. "He knows what he did. He knows he gave Stephen Krueger the deadly bottle + and he doesn't want to be held liable.

"Stephen trusted him. He didn't know what was in it, and drank it."

In addition, Schwendiman testified Thursday that he told emergency room personnel at Frankford Hospital that Krueger had consumed the drug. But when Zellis asked him to read the hospital's report on Krueger, it didn't mention GHB.
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"And you know that would be the first thing they'd put down," Zellis said.

David H. Knight, Schwendiman's attorney, said he felt bad for Krueger family members, who were in the courtroom, but told the jury that there's a lack of evidence and "you cannot point to this young man and say he's guilty."

A key issue is whether the GHB that killed Krueger came from his own drink or one supplied him by Schwendiman.

Pamela Wright of Langhorne, a former LA Fitness employee and now a Philadelphia school teacher, testified that on the night of Krueger's death, Feb. 23, 2004, she had asked Schwendiman for a "sip" from a Gatorade bottle she said he was holding.

He told her no, but later overheard him tell Krueger "try this, you'll like it." When Krueger asked, "What's in it?" Schwendiman said "trust me, take a sip."

Knight claimed Wright was distracted because she was talking on her cell phone and saying good night to people as she was leaving the club after her shift.

Schwendiman said it was Krueger who asked him, "Hey, you want some?"

Later that night, after Krueger became ill at the club, Schwendiman grabbed his bag at the front desk and told Scott Hewitson, another employee, that "Steve's not feeling well. + He said he has taken G. He also said he had told him not to take that much."

Another gym employee, Andrea Carabillo of Bensalem, who went out to eat with Schwendiman that evening, said he told her, "I gave him GHB. + I told him to sip it."

She also said Schwendiman said he could get her some. She declined. On the witness stand, Schwendiman said he was joking.

The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday and is expected back in Judge Jeffrey L. Finley's courtroom at 9:30 this morning.

September 18, 2009 02:21 AM