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Foster mother recalls young woman who died after painkiller injection

BROOKSVILLE — Krista Rodgers loved candy, hip-hop, and her son, Blaze.

What she did not like, her foster mother said, was drugs.

"She didn't smoke pot, she didn't like pills," Cindy Jewtraw said. "She hated needles."

But in August 2012, Rodgers, 22, ended up in a hotel room east of Brooksville with Meghan Jean White. Investigators say White, a 38-year-old self-described junkie, killed Rodgers by injecting her with Dilaudid, a powerful painkiller.

On Wednesday, Jewtraw got the news she'd been waiting for: White had been charged with first-degree murder.

White was already in prison for injecting her 16-year-old daughter with the same drug in another hotel room three months before Rodgers' death.

"She did it to her own daughter, and she did it to my daughter," Jewtraw said. "She needs to be off the streets and away from society."

• • •

Rodgers was victimized by substance abuse before she took her first breath.

Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, she had a low IQ and needed reminders to do basic tasks such as brush her teeth, Jewtraw said.

Rodgers bounced around foster homes as a young girl and was 12 when she came to stay with Jewtraw and her husband, Bill.

"It was supposed to be a weekend thing but I fell in love with the kid," said Cindy Jewtraw, a licensed practical nurse.

Rodgers spent about 18 months in a Pinellas group home for children with disabilities, then moved back with the Jewtraws in Spring Hill. She graduated from Springstead High School in 2009, and Blaze was born a month later.

The Jewtraws were the boy's primary caregivers, but Rodgers helped.

"He was her world," Cindy Jewtraw said.

Rodgers got a job through ARC of the Nature Coast sorting boxes at a Walmart distribution center.

"She had a sweet nature but was easily influenced," said Mark Barry, ARC's director.

Rodgers also received a monthly disability check, and people who knew she had a steady source of income sometimes took advantage of her, Jewtraw said.

About three months before her death, Rodgers and a friend rented an apartment in Brooksville. Jewtraw said she found out later that Rodgers met Meghan White and her daughter at the complex a couple of days before her death.

• • •

Early in May 2012, White and her daughter booked a room at a Days Inn east of Brooksville.

In an interview with authorities two weeks later, the teen said White told her she didn't know what she was missing by not injecting Dilaudid, an arrest report states. The girl said she wasn't opposed to the idea because she was addicted to pills and it took too long to get high by crushing and inhaling them.

Detectives began searching for White, who at that point was a transient.

Three months later, in the last week of August 2012, White and her daughter checked into the Microtel Inn on State Road 50 near Interstate 75. Rodgers joined them.

Jewtraw said her daughter's roommate told her Rodgers, who was confused about her sexuality, had taken a liking to the girl. "The only reason she was there was because she had a crush on (White's daughter)," Jewtraw said.

Rodgers was found dead on Friday, Aug. 31. That December, detectives caught up with and arrested White and charged her with child abuse for injecting her daughter at the Days Inn.

At a sentencing hearing last May, White told Hernando Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti that she'd been shooting drugs for a decade and lost custody of her daughter about the same time. She said her daughter stole her pills and had "torn up" her arm trying to inject herself. White said she guided the needle into the teen's arm that day.

"I love my kid," she said. "I just don't know what to do with her. And she does love me."

White pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, the investigation into Rodgers' death continued. Detectives said White admitted to injecting Rodgers.

The Jewtraws are now in the process of adopting Blaze.

"When he gets older, I'll tell him his mother was taken from us too early," Cindy Jewtraw said, "and it wasn't her fault."

Times news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Foster mother recalls young woman who died after painkiller injection 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 7:54pm]
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