Niagara Gazette

October 15, 2012

NT nurse sentenced in fatal overdose

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A former North Tonawanda resident was sentenced in Georgia this week for selling an illegal drug online to a teenager who later died from an overdose.

Matthew Schroeder, 29, a registered nurse, was convicted in August after pleading guilty to dispensing a misbranded prescription drug without a prescription and with intent to defraud and mislead, which were sent while he was still living in North Tonawanda.

The “party drug” was sold on eBay without approval in the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in northern Georgia.

The drug, phenazepam, is similar in effect to Valium and is not listed as a controlled substance under federal drug laws. Its sale for human consumption is prohibited in the U.S. except in the case of research, where it is strictly regulated, according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

Yates said the charges and other information presented in court in 2010 showed an 18-year-old man from Acworth, Ga. bought phenazepam from Schroeder’s eBay site.

On the night of August 24, 2010, the 18-year-old, his teenage friends and Kerrie Sue Chatham, 44, were partying at Chatham’s home in Acworth. While watching movies, the 18-year-old mixed phenazepam in powder form with alcohol and then injected the mixture. The 18-year-old was also taking oxycodone pills given to him by Chatham.

The next day Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from the Chatham home and arrived to find the 18-year-old unconscious with a nose bloodied from an overdose. The teen, Chatham and two others were taken to the hospital, where the victim died.

An autopsy concluded that his death was an accident caused by phenazepam, oxycodone and propoxyphene.

Authorities traced the 18-year-old’s purchase of phenazepam to Schroeder’s eBay, email and PayPal records, along with information provided by the victim’s parents.

The evidence led investigators to North Tonawanda, where they discovered evidence of phenazepam sales in Schroeder’s apartment and on his computer. Schroeder admitted selling phenazepam to the 18 year old and others around the country.