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Dad Blamed for 4-Year-Old’s Methadone Death

March 11, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ Within hours of drinking from a bottle of Gatorade filled with methadone, 4-year-old Leah O’Doherty was dead.

Leah was taken to a hospital after swallowing a massive amount of the synthetic drug often given to recovering heroin addicts. Her father had called 911.

Kevin O’Doherty was arrested a short time later and charged with second- degree murder. The 26-year-old father told investigators his daughter’s death was an accident.

The mother, Kelli O’Doherty, 24, was charged with criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child. She said she was out to dinner when her daughter swallowed the drug Wednesday evening.

Police say the girl’s father was a methadone addict and that her mother was hooked on heroin. Their apartment in the Jackson Heights section of Queens was littered with syringes and other drug paraphernalia, investigators said.

On Friday, a judge set the mother’s bail at $2,500 and ordered the father held without bail.

O’Doherty told police he was alone with Leah in their apartment when he fell asleep. He said he awoke to find that the girl had taken a Gatorade bottle filled with methadone from the refrigerator.

If that’s true, ″it’s like leaving a loaded revolver on a coffee table,″ Capt. Bernard Gillespi said.

Investigators wondered whether the drug could have been given ″to keep the child quiet,″ Gillespi added.

When police recovered the Gatorade bottle, still filled with illegally obtained methadone, the father’s fingerprints were on the bottle, said Detective Kim Royster, a police spokeswoman. His daughter’s were not.

The evidence suggests ″there is no way that child could have taken the drug without her father’s knowledge or help,″ Royster said.