Justice With Dignity - Committee to Remember Kimberly Rogers


Kimberly Rogers Inquest Alerts

Troubled woman apologized for ‘mistake’

by Keith Lacey

Northern Life
Thursday, October 24, 2002 17:20


Kimberly Rogers wrote a letter of apology to Cambrian College administrators after admitting to collecting welfare and student loans at the same time.

“I realize I’ve made a huge mistake. I don’t want to get charged,” said Rogers, in a letter sent to Richard Fedec, manager of financial aid and student loans at the college.

Fedec testified at a coroner’s inquest into her death that Rogers collected about $33,000 in student loans between the fall of 1996 and graduation in the spring of 2000.

She graduated near the top of her class in social work.

During those four years, the only time Rogers admitted receiving social assistance was during summer months when school was out.

Rogers had been sentenced to six months of house arrest after pleading guilty to theft over $5,000 for collecting $14,000 in welfare benefits while accepting student loans.

She died in August 2001, from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescription drug used to battle depression and prevent migraine headaches.

The inquest has heard Rogers stockpiled more than 1,300 amitriptyline pills in the 10 weeks before she died.

Rogers was eight months pregnant and suffered from chronic depression, panic attacks, insomnia, physical pain and severe migraine headaches. Her badly decomposed body was found in the sweltering heat of her apartment.

Social activists lashed out at the Ontario government’s tough stand against welfare fraud that resulted in Rogers’ tragic death.

Fedec confronted Rogers in the fall of 1999 about claiming welfare benefits while on student loans. He had received information from the city’s social services department.

Rogers initially denied doing anything wrong, ignored him for two weeks, then admitted her wrongdoing by writing a letter of apology, said Fedec.

“She was surprised I had found out. She initially didn’t agree or admit it,” he said.

In the letter, Rogers accepts full responsibility, but pleads for mercy noting she’s only one semester away from graduating.

He believed her letter to be sincere, said Fedec.

“If there is no more funding, I will understand, but if I am cut off, I’m not likely to find work and get a job in my field,” said Rogers.

Rogers added the only way she will be able to pay back her debts is to graduate and get a decent job, said Fedec.

“Without funding, I will be lost. I am truly sorry. I don’t want to be charged and go to jail,” said Rogers.

“The only way I can redeem myself is to graduate and get a job.”

Fedec said he had grown to know Rogers very well over her four years at Cambrian.

Despite her indiscretions, he admired her intelligence and hard work in the classroom and went out of his way to help her obtain two bursaries so she could finish her final semester.

Janet McKay, the owner of a group home where Rogers spent a four-month work placement during the final semester, testified Rogers was an outstanding worker with compassion for troubled clients.

“Kim would have been a dynamic social worker,” she said. “She was very caring. She had that ‘been there, done that’ scenario, which gave her a lot of empathy for clients.”

Rogers was “beyond broke” during her placement in the spring of 2000, said McKay.

She didn’t have enough money for bus fare and McKay often made food trays at the group home for Rogers to take home at night.

Rogers was “absolutely thrilled” at being pregnant, she said.

“She told me this was her last shot to show the world she could be somebody,” she said.

While very embarrassed at being charged, Rogers was willing to pay her penance, have the baby and was determined to find employment as a social worker, she said.

“Her attitude was I did the crime, I’ve got to do the time,” said McKay. “She said I screwed up and I’ve got to do something to make it better.”

Rogers didn’t display any signs of depression or suicidal tendencies during the time she knew her, said McKay.

In earlier testimony, the sister of Rogers testified she witnessed her sister alter a doctor’s prescription note to get more medication.

Barbara Rogers said she was deeply concerned about her sister’s dependence on prescription pills and saw her, on one occasion, use a pen to falsify and increase the number of pills her doctor had prescribed for her.

“Kim was doctoring prescriptions,” said Rogers. “She said she needed more and they (doctors) wouldn’t give her any more.”

Rogers’s physician, Dr. Robert Clendenning, told the jury he believes Rogers committed suicide.

The high level of the drug amitriptyline clearly indicates she took a lethal dosage of pills in a short period of time in the hours before she died, he said.

Rogers had stockpiled more than 1,300 amitriptyline pills in the 10 weeks before she died.

Rogers, 42, described her sister as a rebellious teenager who left home at 16 and moved to Toronto.

“Kim was always running away,” she said.

Her sister was a very happy person most of the time, but started using and abusing prescription pills at a young age, she said.

“I told her she shouldn’t be doing that all the time,” she said. “If it wasn’t Tylenol, it was something else.”

Her sister wasn’t a regular drinker, but drank to excess when she did, she testified.

Not once from the time she was charged by Sudbury police in the fall of 2000 until her sentencing in April of 2001 did she ever mention her involvement with welfare fraud, any conditions of house arrest or her court challenge to have her welfare benefits reinstated, Barbara Rogers said.

“She never discussed that with any of us. We only read about it in the paper,” she said.

“She said she was very embarrassed about the whole situation and she didn’t want to talk about it.”

After becoming pregnant, Kimberly broke off most of her communication with family members, she said.

‘She never returned calls or answered her door,” she said.

Kimberly did phone her a few days before she died and asked her to drop over for a cup of tea, but phoned back minutes later and told her she had changed her mind and wanted to lie down instead, she testified.

They discussed her pregnancy during that call and her sister was very happy about becoming a mother, she said.

Suggestions Kimberly was without food or money to purchase the necessities of life of during her pregnancy and house arrest sentence are unwarranted, she said. She, her mother and boyfriend Terry Pyhtila each dropped off money or food on a regular basis through these difficult times.

Pharmacist Charles Hartleib testified he caught Rogers altering a prescription for Tylenol in the fall of 1999. He warned her not to do it again and marked all future prescriptions he gave her with a warning label noting Rogers had been caught doctoring prescriptions.

“She was confronted and told of the seriousness of this and that it was a criminal offence,” said Hartleib.

“I put a note to alert other pharmacists that this had happened.”

Hartleib noted, however, that pharmacists in Ontario have no duty or responsibility to share information on clients, what drugs they dispense or how often with other pharmacists or doctors.

“Things break down if a person goes to another pharmacy,” he said.

 

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