Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mother charged with neglect after boy, 12, overdosed on prescription pills

“You just wonder how people can live like that, especially with kids in the house,” said sheriff’s Detective Bryan Faulkingham. He called the scene inside one of the worst he’s ever seen.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

“You just wonder how people can live like that, especially with kids in the house,” said sheriff’s Detective Bryan Faulkingham. He called the scene inside one of the worst he’s ever seen.

RIDGE MANOR — In the Ridge Manor house where the 12-year-old boy overdosed on his mom's prescription pills and nearly died, every window was covered.

Old newspapers were taped across the glass lining the garage's top. What looked like a shower curtain was hung behind a front window. To the transom above the front door, someone had pasted Transformers wrapping paper.

Hidden behind it all was a scene that a 20-year veteran detective on Wednesday described as among the worst he's ever witnessed.

"It was filthy," said Hernando County Sheriff's Detective Bryan Faulkingham. "You just wonder how people can live like that, especially with kids in the house."

After an investigation, the boy's mother, 40-year-old Lori Michelle Puentes, was arrested April 12 on a charge of child neglect.

Just after midnight on March 27, investigators say, the boy didn't feel well. So, while Puentes and her son's teenage friend stayed in the living room to watch movies, the boy stepped into his mom's bedroom to sleep.

He threw up, then looked for a shirt to change into on his mom's bedroom floor, Faulkingham said. In a clothes pile, he found a bottle of pills. The boy took three Xanax, two somas and one pill he didn't recognize.

Later, investigators said, Puentes told them she had recently filled her prescriptions, but was missing 158 pills.

With a lone blanket, the boy swallowed the medication and climbed onto Puentes' bare mattress — smeared with dog feces — and drifted to sleep.

The next morning, Puentes heard her son cough and went into her bedroom to check on him. Puentes later told investigators she rubbed his back and returned to the living room, where she fell back to sleep.

Hours later, the friend awoke just after 4 that afternoon. The teenager went into Puentes' bedroom. He saw vomit on his friend's mouth. He couldn't wake the boy up, so he told Puentes and she called 911.

"I think if that friend hadn't been there to wake the mom up," the detective said, "he would have died."

When Faulkingham walked into the house, he said the air was thick and foul.

Investigators said they found about a dozen prescription pill bottles among nearly 100 empty soda cans and piles of dirty dishes. An uncovered ham decayed in a grimy refrigerator. Dog excrement spotted the furniture and the floor.

Pinkish, green mold had begun to consume portions of the home from the floor up. In some places — including near the boy's bedroom — Faulkingham found it nearly 2 feet up the wall, thick enough to scrape off.

When Faulkingham interviewed Puentes, he said she seemed lethargic and kept insisting she was thirsty, leading him to believe she was under the influence of something.

After three days, when the boy was healthy and coherent enough to talk to investigators, they interviewed him in his hospital bed at University Community Hospital in Tampa.

He told Faulkingham he smoked pot, often in his house, at least every other day. The boy also told the detective he knew what he had taken that night.

"It makes you think," Faulkingham said, "it probably wasn't the first time he ever took them."

Twice, in fact, the Department of Children and Families have investigated the Puentes family under similar circumstances. According to a report, Puentes' husband, Douglas, was in rehab at the time of the overdose, and she was the only adult in the home.

In June of last year, a report said, Puentes signed a DCF safety plan that stated she would keep all of her prescription medicine locked up or hidden from her children.

"The agency had worked with the family just last year on similar concerns related to substance abuse," DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said in an e-mail. "The family had agreed to secure all medications in the home as well as to refrain from misusing prescription drugs. Clearly, that issue has not been resolved."

The 12-year-old is now living with a relative, she said. Faulkingham said Lori Puentes also has a 16-year-old daughter, but she had moved out before the incident.

Puentes was charged with child neglect after she'd already been arrested on a count of violation of probation. In February of last year, she was convicted on a DUI charge.

From the Hernando County Detention Center, she declined to be interviewed on Wednesday. Her husband, who's living with a neighbor, could not be reached for comment.

This case, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said, highlights what an enormous problem prescription pill abuse is in Hernando County.

"To say it's an extreme example is an understatement," he said, "but at the same time, it illustrates that this isn't just about people who are addicted to drugs"

Based on early 2011 figures, he said, twice as many people in Hernando are dying from prescription drug overdoses than car wrecks.

"We need to make it socially unacceptable to take these drugs when they're not absolutely necessary, because they're just too dangerous," he said. "It's not a political platform for me. It's a reality. People are dying."

News researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@sptimes.com.

"We need to make it socially unacceptable to take these drugs when they're not absolutely necessary, because they're just too dangerous. It's not a political platform for me. It's a reality. People are dying."

Sheriff Al Nienhuis

Mother charged with neglect after boy, 12, overdosed on prescription pills 04/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 3:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  2. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  3. Romano: When a life is more valuable than an arrest

    Public Safety

    Before examining the details, let's propose a question:

    This is a handout request to accompany school portraits of Joey Boylan, who died of a drug overdose and who is being written about in John Romano's column for Sunday. We'd like to run a mug of Joey with the column. Any of the first three attached pictures would be fine to use. We don't need them all. Just pick your favorite portrait and put that in the system. Thanks.
  4. Bono visits with former President George W. Bush

    Blogs

    A surprising photo showed up Friday on former President George W. Bush's Instagram feed. Apparently Bono made a visit to the ranch.

    Former President George W. Bush and Bono.
  5. After trip's final day, Trump to return to tumult at home

    National

    TAORMINA, Italy — Down to the final day of his lengthy first international trip, President Donald Trump will lift off for Washington having rattled some allies and reassured others, returning to a White House that sits under a cloud of scandal.

    G7 leaders sign the G7 Taormina Statement on the Fight Against Terrorism and Violent Extremism at the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy on Friday.  (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)