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Father charged with third-degree murder in son's fatal overdose

SPRING HILL — Steven Alfano wanted to teach 15-year-old son Vincent "how to party right,'' witnesses say. They say he gave Vincent a cocktail of powerful prescription drugs and showed him how to crush and snort the pills.

But his son is dead, and now Alfano is facing a murder charge.

Alfano, 47, was arrested on Friday, more than one month after deputies found Vincent dead from an accidental overdose in the family's home.

Spokeswomen for Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Office of National Drug Control Policy could not recall a similar case of a parent charged with murder in an accidental overdose death.

When deputies arrived at the Alfano home at 11718 Linden Drive about 9 a.m. June 27, the father told them he had found Vincent in his bedroom and had tried to perform CPR.

Vincent, who turned 15 on June 9 and was an eighth-grade student at Challenger K-8 school, was later found to have six types of drugs in his system, according to the medical examiner's office. They included painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone and a form of the antianxiety drug Xanax.

Alfano told deputies that he kept his prescribed medications locked away "so no one other than himself had access to them," according to an arrest affidavit. However, deputies found hundreds of pills easily accessible.

More than a week later, Alfano told two of Vincent's friends that he knowingly gave the drugs to his son, according to authorities.

"I tried to teach him how to party right," Alfano told the two friends, who wore wires as confidential informants for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. The two friends told investigators they had previously purchased prescription drugs from Alfano.

The two informants and another of Vincent's friends told investigators they saw Alfano give prescription drugs to his son. All three witnesses said they saw the father and son crush and snort pills together.

Alfano was charged with third-degree murder, which according to Florida statute can occur when the killing of a person "resulted from the unlawful distribution" of narcotics. He was also charged with one count of child abuse. He was being held without bail Friday at the Hernando County Jail.

Authorities said Alfano obtained the many kinds of pills by giving false information to pharmacists. He was charged with withholding information from a medical practitioner, according to an arrest affidavit.

Alfano has a lengthy criminal record that includes one arrest for assault on a law enforcement officer, one arrest for battery on a police officer and multiple DUI arrests, among others.

Experts said Vincent's death is an example of the myth that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs.

"It's very tragic," said Jennifer de Vallance, spokeswoman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "But it's far too common."

About 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them through a friend or family member, and most teens get prescription drugs by stealing them from their home medicine cabinet. Rarely do parents give them pills, said Hallie Deaktor, director of public affairs for Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Neither de Vallance nor Deaktor could remember a case in which a parent was charged with murder in the accidental overdose death of a child.

Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430. Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Father charged with third-degree murder in son's fatal overdose 08/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:02pm]

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