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4 charged in overdose death of Hernando girl

The 13-year-old died after ingesting an undetermined amount of a prescription painkiller at a Jan. 30 party.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- A man and three teenagers have been accused of causing the fatal overdose of a 13-year-old girl by giving her a huge amount of a powerful painkiller.

Shauna Ulman consumed an undetermined number of pills during a party Jan. 30 at the man's home, authorities said.

"They gave her enough to kill two elephants," said Shauna's father, Michael Ulman. "She had been so happy, was so beautiful. She had the whole world waiting for her. But she had no chance of survival that night."

Arrested on Wednesday and charged with manslaughter were 44-year-old Rufus W. Simpson Jr., and his son, 18-year-old Rufus W. Simpson III, both of Masaryktown; and Brooksville area residents Joshua D. Leonard, 17, and Christopher J. Warren, 16.

Officials say the deadly chain of events started when Warren stole prescription painkillers from his mother's closet after she died of cancer in April 1999.

The pills contained an unusually high dose of the drug oxycodone hydrochloride because cancer patients build up resistance to the drug over time, sheriff's officials said. One pill can be fatal to someone who is not used to it, officials said. It is unclear whether the teens were aware of the pills' potency.

Warren is accused of giving some of those pills to Leonard in exchange for a drug called ecstasy, sheriff's Maj. Richard Nugent said. Leonard took the pills to the party at the Simpson home and passed them on to the younger Simpson, deputies said.

About 1 a.m., Shauna and her 14-year-old sister, Summer Ulman, slipped out of their home west of Brooksville and went to the party, about 15 minutes away.

Summer said Thursday that the younger Simpson told both girls the pills were ecstasy and pressured them to take them. Before long, Summer said, she had consumed two pills and passed out.

The girls' father said officials from the Medical Examiner's Office told him that Shauna may have ingested as many as 20 pills before she died.

Sheriff's officials said they could not confirm how many pills the Parrott Middle School student took, although they said the normal fatal dose of the drug is 200 nanograms and that medical examiners said Shauna consumed 4,600 nanograms. Nanograms are one-billionth of a gram. A gram is about the weight of a paper clip.

During the party, Nugent said, the elder Simpson was present and aware that the many minors in his house were doing drugs.

"The father admitted to being present, admitted to smoking marijuana with them and admitted to knowing they were ingesting drugs," Nugent said. "His comment to us was, "At least it was safer for the kids to use the drugs in my house than on the street.' But obviously that was not the case. A 13-year-old has died."

Summer said Thursday that she and her friends frequently went to the Simpson house to have parties while the father was home. She said many thought Simpson was "awesome" for letting them do what they wanted.

Summer is having difficulty dealing with the knowledge that she is the one who brought her sister to the party.

"I think, what if I hadn't fallen asleep?" she said. "It's difficult because we were always together. And now when I get up in the morning, she's not here. And when I go to sleep at night, she's not here. I think about it every day."

Shauna and Summer's father, Michael Ulman, blames the Simpsons.

"A 44-year-old with a house full of minors. . . . That's pretty low, about as low as you can get," he said. "You feel anger for a long, long time."

Nugent said that all four suspects were accused of manslaughter, in part to make teens aware of the consequences of drugs.

"You've got to be held accountable," Nugent said, adding that others could have died. Authorities reported that four other people overdosed on the same drug and had to be taken to hospitals.

"We're very fortunate that their bodies reacted to that pill by vomiting it out," he said.

About a third of the 157 pills have been recovered, said Nugent. He said many of the pills probably were destroyed or thrown out after the death.

Late Thursday, the three teenagers each remained in the Hernando County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. They declined to be interviewed.

In addition to the manslaughter charge, they each face two counts of drug possession and a count of conspiracy to possess or deliver a controlled substance.

At their first appearance Thursday, County Judge Peyton Hyslop questioned the conspiracy charges, saying he saw no evidence of a plan to pass the drugs on to Shauna. A hearing on the conspiracy accusation will be held this morning.

The elder Simpson, who was released Thursday on $10,500 bail, faces another count of hosting an open house party. No one answered the phone at his house Thursday.

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