Muncie woman charged with neglect in son's suicide

Sabrina Howard

An Indiana woman whose 16-year-old son committed suicide in July is facing a neglect charge in his death after prosecutors determined there wasn't enough evidence to support a preliminary charge alleging that her drug use drove him to take his life.

Delaware County prosecutors filed a single neglect of a dependent charge Thursday against 40-year-old Sabrina A. Howard in the death of her son, who police said died last month from an overdose of Howard's prescription medication.

Court papers say Howard confronted her son around 8:30 a.m. July 10, accusing him of using her prescription narcotics. She reportedly warned him what he had taken "could kill him." The documents say the mother reported her son's speech as "slowed" and he was "groggy acting."

More than eight hours later, the teen's aunt called 911, after Howard found him on the couch, not breathing.

"It's my nephew. He's blue," the aunt told the dispatcher. "He's not breathing. Please hurry!"

"The allegations here are, the defendant has placed the dependant, the child, in a situation that endangers his health and his life," said Delaware County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hoffman.

Prosecutors cite an alleged pattern of neglect, from delays getting the teen help that morning after suspecting he was taking drugs, to failing to get him help after a suspected suicide attempt six months before.

When she was arrested earlier this week, Howard was also preliminarily charged with causing suicide. Family told police Sabrina's drug use had her son "under great duress." He feared he'd come home and find his mother had died of an overdose.

The charge of causing suicide was not filed.

"In this case, there wasn't really any evidence that the child's mother intentionally, specifically, intended for him to commit suicide," Hoffman said.

Neighbor Carol Bolin is saddened by it all.

"He used to jump on the trampoline and play in the pool," Bolin said.

She and other neighbors remember the teenager as a nice kid who, for some reason, went downhill.

"It's tragic what happened, but I hope people clear their medicine cabinets out. Don't keep things around for people, kids, to get hold of. It's really sad," Bolin said.