I received this
note and wanted to make sure it went out to all of you incase
anyone else knew her. Melanie also did counseling for
families who lost loved ones due to drug or alcohol caused
accidents. She was the victim of a drugged driver.
I have sent the
headlines out early because I am leaving in the morning for a
much needed vacation. I will have no e-mail access for the
week, so you will not reach me until after the 22nd. Have a
Sharon L. Smith
Mechanicsburg, Pa. 17055
We have sad news for many of you
today. A former NOVA staff member and CRT trainer died
tragically on Thursday, January 5, 2006. Many of you may have
known, been trained by or worked alongside
Merola ODonnell. The article about her death due
to an impaired driver follows.
Cheryl Guidry Tyiska
National Organization for Victim Assistance
510 King Street, Suite 424
703-535-6682 x 105
ROUTE NINE CRASH CLAIMS LIFE( Due to a drugged driver)
woman died Thursday night following a four-car crash caused by
a man police said was high on
Melanie O'Donnell, 33, the
mother of a 2-year-old son, was the passenger in a car driven
by her husband, 37-year-old George O'Donnell. Though he was
not injured in the crash, police described O'Donnell as badly
shaken. Melanie O'Donnell was taken to
after the crash.
Another driver, Christina Myers, 26, of Watervliet, needed
Christopher McNally, 34, of
143 Church St.,
is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, a
misdemeanor, according to police. More serious charges may be
filed later, police said.
McNally had been using marijuana and Percocet
-- a powerful prescription narcotic painkiller -- before the
7:11 a.m. wreck on Route 9 near the tree nursery, according to
a law enforcement source. McNally went to Albany Med with
shoulder injuries. City police put him under arrest Thursday
afternoon and were guarding him until he could be released
from the hospital and arraigned in City Court.
Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III is
awaiting definitive blood test results from the state police
crime laboratory. Police got a warrant to search McNally's
Subaru, but Murphy said he couldn't comment on the results of
that search. Melanie O'Donnell was the daughter of Vicky
Merola, a crime victim advocate in Murphy's office.
Merola's job often involves counseling the families of people
killed or injured in alcohol- and drug-related accidents.
'We've spent the afternoon here at Albany Med with
the family,' Murphy said earlier in the day. O'Donnell
suffered injuries to her head, Murphy said. Murphy said he'll
likely ask for a special prosecutor in the case to avoid the
appearance of a conflict of interest. Police said McNally was
headed north in the Subaru when he veered into the southbound
lane. He hit an oncoming 2006 Mitsubishi sedan driven by
'He essentially flew off it,' said Saratoga Springs Police
Sgt. Will Crandall, the department's accident investigator.
McNally's car flipped on its side as it flew into the air and
hit the roof of O'Donnell's Acura SUV. Murphy said the
O'Donnells were on their way to work in
O'Donnell worked at the Stratton VA Medical Center in
The fourth car was also southbound and hit the other cars from
behind. That driver, who was not identified, was not injured.
Crandall said it had not yet begun to snow at the time of the
crash, but it was raining. 'Traffic was going 55 miles an
hour,' he said. 'It was normal commuter traffic.'
It started snowing very soon thereafter, grounding the
MedFlight helicopter from Albany Med. Melanie O'Donnell and
McNally were transported by ambulance.
Police closed portions of the road for several hours as they
searched for a cause for the wreck and cleared the road of
debris. They didn't open all four lanes to traffic until 1
p.m. Police had to work fast at the quarter-mile-long crash
scene because snow quickly covered skid marks left on the
pavement. State police used a Total Station, a laser device
similar to what a land surveyor would use, to measure the
Murphy said that it appears that McNally has a history of
traffic-related criminal behavior in other states, but Murphy
is waiting a more complete set of criminal records. McNally
was charged Nov. 2 with petit larceny and accused of taking
$750 worth of tools from another man's truck.
McNally listed his occupation as laborer. Murphy said he was
on his way to work constructing the new dormitories at
Police said that nails and tools flew from his car and were
strewn all over the road. Crandall said that this
investigation hit police hard emotionally because of their
association with Merola, not to mention the growing death toll
on area roads. 'We had six fatalities last year, and that was
a record,' Crandall said. 'Today (Thursday) is Jan. 5. Slow
NOWHERE TO RUN
The door to the giant warehouse near the Tucson airport swings
open, and a musty-mint blast slaps me in the face like a big,
soft mitten. The odor is instantly recognizable: It's pot.
Lots and lots of pot.
Inside, neatly stacked bales of marijuana stand like faceless
chessmenthe evidence from a game of extremes played out every
day along the nearby Arizona-Mexico border. Anthony Coulson,
the Drug Enforcement Agency official in charge there, says
that as much as 20% of the marijuana brought into the state of
Arizona during the last year has been discovered in one
location: the Tohono O'odham reservation, where a confluence
of abject poverty and the opportunity for a fast buck have
come to torment the Indian nation.
In 2000, according to the DEA, some 50,800 pounds of marijuana
were seized on Tohono land. By last year, the figure had
soared to 192,225 pounds. Other authorities put the number
even higher. More and more Tohono themselves, meanwhile, have
been caught up in the drug trade. "Young Indians," says
Coulson, "carry it over to drop houses" from which the pot
eventually finds its way to the streets.
While Indian tribes in other places have hit the jackpot with
a lucrative gambling trade, the Tohonos' casino in Tucson has
generated little revenue for the reservation residents, and
50% still live in poverty, more than 40% are unemployed and
POT ADVOCATES PUSH
Stoked by their surprise victory in Denver,
marijuana-legalization advocates are hoping to ride the
momentum with statewide ballot initiatives this year in
Colorado and Nevada. Colorado activists announced a drive two
weeks ago aimed at bringing a clone of Denver's Initiative 100
before voters statewide in November. Initiative 100 allows
adults in the city to possess small amounts of marijuana.
And activists in Nevada, who
have secured a place for a legalization measure on the state
ballot in November, are taking heart in the success of
Initiative 100, which captured 54 percent of the vote in the
Nov. 1 election.
If the measures pass, Colorado and Nevada would become the
first states to win voter approval for marijuana legalization.
Alaska allows adults to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana in
their homes, thanks to court decisions upholding privacy
rights, but voters defeated a 2004 initiative that would have
abolished all penalties for possession and regulated marijuana
SOCIAL HOST LAW HARD TO ENFORCE, DAS SAY- Snags cited in
teen drinking cases
Three teenage girls, two from Weymouth and one from Scituate,
were killed in two drunken-driving accidents in the span of
two weeks after parties where minors were drinking.
Prosecutors brought charges against the party hosts under the
state's Social Host Responsibility Law, which makes it a crime
to allow minors to drink at your home.
But, in a separate fatal crash after another party this fall,
Nathaniel Berberian, 20, will apparently not face charges in
the deaths of two sisters, Shauna and Meghan Murphy. Last
week, Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte said there was
insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge against the
host, despite a Northborough police investigation that alleged
the teens had been drinking at Berberian's home before the
The handling of the cases on the South Shore and in
Northborough highlights the broad discretion and legal
difficulties in enforcing state laws aimed at people who
furnish alcohol to minors. Though district attorneys in
Massachusetts have brought charges against underage party
hosts, prosecutors and police say they often find it difficult
to bring a solid case because they often have to rely on
circumstantial evidence and the testimony of fellow
party-goers, who are reluctant to turn in their peers.
''It's almost impossible to prove," said Bristol District
Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr.
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
AGENTS SHARE MARIJUANA INTELLIGENCE
Police raiding massive marijuana farms 300 miles apart are
discovering that the same brands of fertilizer, pesticides and
shovels are often used to grow tens of thousands of high-grade
Government analysts are using such seemingly innocuous
information, plugged into a shared database by drug agents in
four Western states, to search for patterns linking diverse
operations across the West and into Mexico.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott lobbied for federal money to set
up the intelligence-sharing units in 2004 to go after the
brains and financing behind increasingly sophisticated
marijuana-growing operations. He had become frustrated that
prosecutions in his Northern California district often stopped
with poor Mexican immigrants illegally imported to guard the
giant pot farms.
A Sacramento-based "fusion center" tracks information based
not on geography, but by tying together all the information on
particular drug operations that routinely span state and
national borders, said Tommy LaNier, who directs the San
Diego-based National Marijuana Initiative.
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
METH ARRESTS OF MERCHANTS
Calling federal drug charges against dozens of South Asian
convenience store owners racially biased, several hundred
people rallied Sunday in Decatur for an end to prosecution in
what federal agents have dubbed "Operation Meth Merchant."
In June, 49 people and 16 corporations, most of them in
northwest Georgia, were charged with supplying everyday items
--- from antifreeze to cold medicine --- to informants who
claimed they were using the products to make methamphetamine.
In all, 44 of the 49 convenience store clerks and owners
charged in the sting were Indian, and many shared the same
last name, Patel. Charges in several of those cases have been
dropped, others have resulted in guilty pleas and some still
have not gone to trial.
Supporters of the accused, including the American Civil
Liberties Union, say the sting was rife with problems. They
say several defendants were not even in the country at the
time they are accused of illegally selling the ingredients and
that informants used obscure drug slang, which the clerks,
some of whom speak limited English, did not understand.
"We are not coming from a criminal background," said Upendra
Patel, president of Georgia's Asian-American Convenience Store
Association. "We have thousands of years of culture and
civilization, and we do not know what this drug is about.
Putting some innocent people behind bars is not going to solve
the drug problem."
DUI COURTS OVERHAULED TO BE
The Arizona Supreme Court thinks it takes too long for DUI
cases to get through the court system. On Thursday, Chief
Justice Ruth McGregor unveiled a series of recommendations to
speed up the process.
Those recommendations lean on prosecutors, law enforcement and
judges to smooth out and standardize DUI procedures and to
make sure they are done in a timely fashion. And they lean on
defense attorneys by cutting short some legal tactics.
And so McGregor is establishing pilot programs to test new
rules and timetables that may eventually become statewide
BRINGING DOWN THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION
A Colombian gang which ran one of the biggest cocaine
distribution networks in Britain has been jailed. The two
masterminds, Jesus Anibal Ruiz Henao and Mario Tascon, were
sentenced to 19 and 17 years.
The convictions, which can only be revealed now after
reporting restrictions were finally lifted, are the
culmination of a four-year investigation by the National Crime
Squad and Scotland Yard, who were assisted by Colombian
Those who encountered Jesus Ruiz Henao and his brother-in-law
Mario Tascon in their everyday London jobs - driving buses and
cleaning - could never have guessed they were sitting on
millions in drug money.
WIRE SERVICE REPORT
DUTCH TAKE SOBER LOOK AT
AMSTERDAM - Paul Wilhelm speaks about marijuana the way
a vintner might discuss wine. He talks of aroma, taste and
texture, of flowering periods, of the pros and cons of
Wilhelm's connoisseurship might earn him a long prison
sentence in the United States, but here in the Netherlands,
he's just another taxpaying businessman. He owns a
long-established pot emporium - the Dutch call them "coffee
shops" - where customers can sidle up to the bar, peruse a
detailed menu, and choose from 22 variations of fragrant
marijuana and 18 types of potent hash.
Business got even better after Wilhelm's shop, the Dampkring,
was featured earlier last year in the film "Ocean's Twelve."
And yet life is not as simple for Wilhelm as it is for the pub
owner down the street, thanks to the contradictory nature of
Holland's famously liberal drug laws. Though the business is
duly licensed and regulated, to run it properly he is forced
to flout the law on a daily basis. While the Netherlands
allows the sale of small amounts of marijuana in coffee shops,
it is still illegal to grow marijuana, store it, and transport
it in the kind of quantities that any popular shop requires.
Last month, the Dutch parliament began debating a proposal to
change that by launching a pilot project to regulate marijuana
growing. It was the brainchild of the mayor of Maastricht, a
city near the German and Belgian borders that is plagued by
gangs of smugglers. Proponents argue that legalizing growing
will drive out most of the criminal element and boost
SEABROOK DRUG DEATHS A STARK WARNING
They were three healthy young men, presumably with decades of
life ahead of them. None of them were "junkies," with a
history of drug addiction. But all three died in Seabrook last
year, after consuming a fatal mix of alcohol and prescription
For Ryan Bickford, 18, of Hampton, it was beer and Fentanyl,
a powerful painkiller delivered through a skin patch. For
Jimmy Manazir, 29, of Haverhill, it was alcohol and the drug
commonly known as Valium, which is used to treat anxiety. And
for Kevin Cassidy Jr., 21, of Amesbury, it was alcohol and
Oxycodone, better known by the brand names OxyContin, Percocet
or Percodan, another powerful painkiller.
Any drug-related death is a tragedy, no matter if it comes
to a one-time user from an accidental overdose or to one who
has been in a downward addiction spiral for years. But as
local police have noted, the most alarming thing about these
deaths is that they appear to have been caused in part by
fatal ignorance. While most young people are made aware of the
dangers of heroin and cocaine, the drugs that these young men
used are all prescribed by physicians. That apparently gives
young people the impression that they are
PRISON TERM OF 55 YEARS
FOR DRUGS IS UPHELD
A federal appeals court has upheld a 55-year prison term
imposed on a Utah man with no criminal record who was
convicted in 2003 of selling several hundred dollars worth of
marijuana on three occasions.
The case of the man, Weldon H. Angelos, a record producer from
Salt Lake City who was 22 at the time of his crime, has become
a benchmark in the debate about sentencing rules and justice.
The trial judge in the case complained in issuing the
sentence, which was required by federal statutes, that he
thought it excessive, and 29 former judges and prosecutors
agreed, in a brief filed on Mr. Angelos's behalf.
But a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,
in a decision issued here late Monday, rejected those
arguments. The sentence properly reflected the will of
Congress, the court said, and was not cruel or unusual
punishment. Mr. Angelos was reported by a witness to have been
armed with a pistol during two of the drug sales - and
requiring stiffer sentences in cases where drugs and violence
are linked, the court said, is legitimate social policy.
OTHER MOMSTELL HEADLINE
ISSUES ON DPNA.ORG