The man held responsible for the overdose of a Whitefish Bay girl, whose death has raised awareness about the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for second-degree reckless homicide.
Matthew Laughrin, 23, also a Whitefish Bay resident, could have been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison in the death of 15-year-old Madison Kiefer.
Laughrin and his father left Kiefer, dead or nearly dead, outside of a Whitefish Bay home on March 1, 2009. She had spent the previous night at the home of Laughrin, who gave her a prescription that - when mixed with another medicine she had abused earlier in the day - led to her death.
The term imposed by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet was recommended by prosecutor Adam Gerol. Dallet also added 10 years of extended supervision that Laughrin will have to serve after leaving prison.
Dallet chastised Laughrin for selling drugs to teens, saying his own long-term drug abuse - which included two overdoses, one that damaged his brain - made his actions more egregious.
"I distinguish the addiction from the choice that Mr. Laughrin made to sell drugs to Maddie Kiefer," Dallet said.
Dallet also said Laughrin's crime was aggravated by his decision not to help Kiefer after he found her unresponsive in his bed.
Gerol, a former Milwaukee County prosecutor who is now Ozaukee County's district attorney, argued that although Kiefer abused drugs for at least nine months, she was a naive teen. In contrast, he characterized Laughrin as an adult with a "sophisticated drug history" who researched the drugs he abused.
Mike Kiefer was one of a number of Kiefer and Laughrin family members who spoke to the judge before she imposed the sentence, saying his daughter should not have taken drugs and that he felt he failed to keep her from using. But Madison "is not on trial today," he said.
Laughrin had given Kiefer one pill of Suboxone, a medicine prescribed to addicts of heroin and opiate painkillers. Earlier in the day she had crushed and snorted clonazepam - also known by the brand-name Klonopin - a medicine prescribed for seizure and panic disorders.
The combination killed her, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner, two days before she was scheduled to enter in-patient drug treatment.
Laughrin's lawyer, Robin Shellow, said Laughrin was not sophisticated but rather an immature, "disabled addict." She said he took Suboxone to prevent his own heroin withdrawal and gave one pill to Kiefer not believing it would harm her.
Shellow didn't recommend a particular sentence, but said that as an addict, Laughrin has a disease that needs treatment.
For his part, Laughrin apologized to the Kiefer family, saying, "I take full responsibility for my actions and they will forever haunt me."
The Journal Sentinel reported in February that prescription drugs were involved in 70% of fatal drug overdoses in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties dating back to 2002.
On the Web The Journal Sentinel's "Prescription for Tragedy" stories, as well as online-only features such as a searchable database of more than 1,200 Milwaukee-area fatal drug overdoses from 2002 through 2009, are at www.JSOnline.com/prescription.
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