Friday, September 21, 2012

Carly Rousso Case Not So Clear Cut; Neurotoxins And Huffing

Undisputed facts in this case are that 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was killed when a vehicle drove onto a sidewalk as she was walking with her mother and two brothers on Central Avenue in Highland Park on Labor Day afternoon. 

The car that hit and caused Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento's death was driven by 18-year old Carly Rousso of Highland Park. 
Rousso has subsequently been charged with one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound.  Basically it's been suggested by law enforcement experts that Rousso was huffing (inhaling a psychoactive substance) while driving and therefore is guilty of reckless homicide.

This case once again highlights for the average person the knowledge that huffing is one of many avenues people use to get high or achieve an altered state of consciousness.  This type of substance use has multiple toxic effects on the body and normally only finds an audience among the most intense and high rate drug abusers.  There are detectable neuropsychological outcomes of this pattern of drug abuse that mimic very closely the outcomes of anyone going under their kitchen sink at home and ingesting the chemicals  found there in an attempt to get high.   Difficulty with attention span and concentration as well as general cognitive decline are among the irreversible outcomes evident with consistent use.  Over time brain atrophy develops in the frontal cortex and these persons are indistinguishable from life long stimulant addicts.  As far as I'm concerned they might as well be just become meth or heroin addicts; the course of their life is on that trajectory and certain death is only 12 months or less away.

But what I really want to talk about is how huffing is gaining a whole new audience among users one would never expect.   I learned about this from firsthand experience when I was called by our Deputy Chief on my way home early one evening and informed one of my ex-clients (52 years old) was just found dead at home in the bathtub with multiple cans of keyboard cleaner on the tub ledge.  The person in question had finally joined AA on a serious level and had been making a meeting a day for the previous 6 months.  What I came to ultimately find was that it was becoming common for AA members of all ages to be huffing but staying clean from alcohol and other more easily detectable substances.  It was suggested by a few friends with 20 plus years of sobriety that the keyboard cleaner was a cheap, non detectable high through drug screens that allowed members to maintain honesty about non alcohol use but still get wasted.

Since that time I've taken to scanning car interiors and desktops for dust off cans; kind of my own system of counting possibilities.  When you've been in the addiction field for 30 years you get somewhat jaded regarding the consistency of substance use.  You see that the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.  In junior high I remember a few kids used baggies to inhale oven cleaner.  In my first few years of practice I was driving down Willow Rd in Northbrook watching an old acquaintance huffing nitrous oxide while driving his chemical canister truck to hospitals and dentists offices where he refilled their tanks.  Keyboard cleaner abuse doesn't surprise me while people are operating vehicles.  What did surprise me was AA groups know of this current use and how likely it is that some members learn about it at meetings and succumb to it as a way to get high that they think is undetectable and safe.  Wrong again!


It always bothered me about the time of day and location of this tragedy.  Mid afternoon on Central Ave in Highland Park is not a likely location for someone getting high.  Then it occurred to me after writing the above post that The Day By Day Club (an Alano Club) is at 784 Central St Highland Park.  A quick glance at google maps shows the tragedy happened just across and up the street from where Carly would have exited the day by day parking lot. They have 12 step recovery meetings all through the day and at night.  In fact this was the meeting location for my deceased ex-client mentioned above.

It isn't to far of a guess that Carly was using her parents car to attend a meeting which, on Labor Day (holiday meeting schedule).  Getting high before or after a meeting using whats believed to be a non-detectable substance does fit a pattern of use I'm familiar with.  "Yes Mom, I'm just using the car to go to a meeting.  I'll be back right afterwards."

Mr. LaRue, I'd alter that story of yours to include a young girl exiting an AA meeting, inhaling the dust off by mouth in the parking lot at Day by Day, turning on to Central, and upon acceleration, losing control of the car as she headed home just a short drive away.

Carly I'd really think about pleading guilty and paying the debt owed as a result of killing 5 year old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento who was likely just contemplating a return to or the start of kindergarten the next day.  The likely outcome of getting off on a technicality is a lifetime of repeated living out of an Edgar Allan Poe story.  Take the hit, make amends and move on.   You know that compulsion to use has made your life unmanageable.

And in general this story now makes sense to least as much sense as any drug use story I know of.    


Anonymous said...

It is not clear to me now. Are you changing your argument about reasoanble doubt, and how hard it is to prove huffing in the the absence of a witness and proof at the dust cleaner was actually used for huffing and not some other purpose? You seem to be leaning toward Carly Rousso having huffed prior to the accident and that she should suffer the consequences, and ultimately make amends and move on with her life. I am curious since I have been following your arguments and find them interesting.

John Conlin said...

The issue for me has always been the difficulty in proving DUI for legally obtained or used substances with psychoactive properties other than alcohol. As far as determining consequences and blame, that's something to be decided inside a courtroom. The defense is free to argue the case on several issues in order to achieve reasonable doubt including one I put forth here (I doubt they will).

Carly on the other hand has to live with having taken a life. My experience there, in talking to many people who have done that (in traffic accidents), is that it haunts you for the rest of your life; whether by true accident or in a criminal fashion. Since there is no question she was driving when it happened, I simply suggested she take the high road. If my scenario is correct and she's guilty, the shortest amount of time to acceptance and serenity is to take the blame, make amends as best she can personally, and to move on.