- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Leonardtown woman, charged with second-degree murder in a drug overdose death last winter, pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to involuntary manslaughter and left the courtroom to return to an inpatient drug program, until she receives her sentence.
Lena Michelle King was detained in pretrial custody, with authorization to be placed in the counseling facility, as she awaited this week’s court proceedings after her arrest last spring on an indictment from the death of John Cleveland Jr.
St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) said Thursday in court that King and Cleveland bought heroin “on the streets” of Annapolis last January, and that upon their return to St. Mary’s, she injected the drug into Cleveland’s hand and he went into a coma.
Cleveland was taken to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital from the apartment on Lawrence Avenue in Leonardtown, according to police reports, and the prosecutor said that Cleveland was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.
St. Mary’s grand jurors charged King, now 21, with the murder through the indictment, which alleged that she administered morphine and heroin to Cleveland the day before he died.
Fritz said in court that King knew the “high potential for lethality” from injecting Cleveland with the heroin. The prosecutor said after the hearing that Cleveland’s morphine injection occurred much earlier that day.
Kevin McDevitt, King’s lawyer, said in court that his client “is very remorseful for her conduct in this case,” and that she continues to pursue “extensive treatment” in the residential treatment program. King told a judge presiding at the hearing that she is taking three medications — for bipolar, anxiety and sleeping disorders — but that they did not effect her ability to knowingly enter the guilty plea resolving the case.
St. Mary’s Circuit Judge David W. Densford said the plea carries with it no agreement on King’s sentence on the manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and he warned her not to “backslide” in her recovery, ultimately for the sake of her health.
“Being in prison is the second-worst thing that could happen to you,” Densford said.
During a bond hearing after King’s arrest, Fritz said that she “could be thrust into the category of a serial murderer,” as St. Mary’s narcotics detectives continued their investigation of the discovery last October of a dead man in the back seat of a vehicle, alone in a parking lot in Charlotte Hall. The man earlier had injected some heroin purchased in Prince George’s County, according to the detectives.
“We cannot prove that she gave anybody any drugs in that case,” Fritz said after Thursday’s plea hearing. No charges have been reported from that investigation.
While King was in pretrial custody, law officers reported that a man found dead in June at his Leonardtown residence succumbed after taking drugs, the day after he witnessed his girlfriend’s death from a drug overdose, at the same address on Lawrence Avenue that was the focus of the investigation leading to King’s indictment.
Neither of those two deceased people’s names were released, and no charges have been reported from the separate investigations conducted by the sheriff’s office and Maryland State Police.