Rogers Inquest Alerts
Rogersí troubled life opens inquest
In the months leading to her death, she suffered from acute migraine headaches, bouts of depression, anxietym and insomnia, coroners jury told
The inquest, convened at the Sudbury Court House to explore the tragic circumstances that led to Rogers Aug. 9, 2001 death from an overdose of Amitryptaline, began yesterday in Sudbury.
At the time of her death in the middle of a mid-summer heat wave, Rogers was eight months pregnant, $43,000 in debt and confined to her Sudbury apartment following an April 25, 2001 conviction for welfare fraud.
And, despite returning to the city of her birth where her mother and three sisters lived, she enjoyed few family supports, Al OMara, counsel for Ontarios chief coroners office, told the three-woman, two-man coronors jury. Rogers, 40, pleaded guilty in April 2001 to defrauding the Sudbury Ontario Works office of $13,327. She was sentenced to six months house arrest and 18 months probation and ordered to repay the money.
She could only leave her apartment at 286 Hazel St. three hours each week to buy groceries, see a physician or for other required appointments. Her problems began in December 1996 when she decided to attend Cambrian College. She would earn a diploma in social work in May 2000.
But while in school, she was collecting social assistance and federal and provincial student loans. Under provincial legislation, any extra income not used to pay for school fees is considered a living allowance and must be declared. In 1999, the Ontario Works office found out about her school loans, declared an overpayment of $13,327 and notified Sudbury police.
After her guilty plea, she had no income and was left destitute. But she would later seek an injunction on the ban pending a constitutional challenge.
On May 31, 2001, the injunction was granted by an Ontario Superior Court Justice and her social assistance was reinstated.
She died before the case was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. At the time of her death, Rogers was living on $520 a month her rent was $450, while $52 was deducted by Ontario Works as repayment, leaving her with $18 for food. Al OMara, counsel for Ontarios chief coroners office, painted a bleak picture of a woman who had led a troubled life.
In the months leading to her death, she suffered from acute migraine headaches, bouts of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Records obtained from the Ontario Prescription Drug Program and local pharmacies showed that from 1995 until her death, Rogers frequented six Sudbury after-hours and medical clinics, a family physician and an obstetrician. She also had prescriptions filled by at least six local pharmacies.
In that time, she was prescribed 24 different medications, but Amitryptaline was by far the most frequently prescribed. Between May 22 and July 26, 2001, Rogers was prescribed and had obtained 1,350 50-mg pills of Amitryptaline.
In that span, her prescription called for her to have consumed 460 pills, which should have left roughly 850.
However, when she was discovered dead in her apartment on Aug. 9, there were no pills to be found and only an empty pill bottle.
Members of her family would later tell police there were actually several empty pill bottles scattered among her possessions.
In raising Rogers prescription history, OMara said he expects to prove that these drugs were too easily available to Rogers, who clearly knew how to take advantage of the system.
I think you can infer a pattern that there was a lack of communication between the various doctors and pharmacies, he said outside the courthouse.
The first days only witness was senior OPP Const. Steven Ross, who compiled a massive 18-volume report for the chief coroners office on the circumstances surrounding Rogers death, which included testimony from friends and family.
Ross testified that Rogers had tried to commit suicide by an overdose of prescription drugs in 1996, and that she openly discussed suicide with her boyfriend, Terry Pyhtila, in the days before she was found dead.
The investigation also found Rogers last known contact with anyone was with a neighbour, whom she had asked to go to a store to purchase Tylenol with codeine for her on Aug. 4. Later that day, Pyhtila came by to pick up Rogers laundry.
Over the course of the next few days, Pyhtila and her physicians office tried to contact Rogers without success. Ross said Pyhtila told him Rogers was often known not to answer the telephone for days on end, so he was not worried about her.
On Aug. 9, he returned to her apartment to return the laundry and was overpowered by a stench inside the apartment. He forced his way into the bedroom the door to which was fastened shut on the inside with a ribbon and found her body.
She was bloated and already decomposing. An autopsy determined she likely died on Aug. 6.
The coroners jury will be asked to determine how and why Rogers died, and decide if theres anything society and government can do to ensure it never occurs again. It is not empowered to assign blame for her death.
The inquest is expected to last six weeks, and call between 35 and 40 witnesses. There are seven separate groups with standing at the inquest, each allowed to call or question witnesses. The inquest continues today.