Mom charged in sleeping pill overdose death of son


After being charged with manslaughter for the death of her only child, bail was set at $21,000 for Raisa Bernabe at her first court appearance Friday.

Bernabe, 44, of Parkland, was ordered by Broward Magistrate Judge John “Jay” Hurley to surrender an expired passport and is not allowed to travel beyond South Florida.

She was arrested by police Thursday after the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that her son Nicholas Odze, 4, died in September, 2009, from an overdose of eszopiclone, a prescription sleep aid sold under the brand name Lunesta.

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Toxicology tests conducted as part of the boy’s autopsy also found that shortly before his death he had ingested ibuprofen and the prescription pain substances oxycodone and oxymorphone, according to a medical examiner report.

Police worked closely with Sepracor, the company that manufactures Lunesta, to determine precisely that it was the eszopiclone that killed the child, said Coral Springs Police Sgt. Joe McHugh.

Officials at Sepracor could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Bernabe had told detectives she gave the boy a Lunesta pill the night of Sept. 9 because he had not been able to stay asleep the previous two nights, police said.

Bernabe was represented in court by criminal defense attorney Sebastian Balliro.

“I’m shocked but not surprised that the state attorney has chosen to file these charges at this time, to charge her how they have,” Balliro said. “Everyone is jumping to conclusions about what was done in that house. She is entitled to a fair examination of the circumstances. This woman has already suffered the loss of her child.”

Nicholas’s father, Allan Odze, found the boy unresponsive in his bed the next morning, police said.

“The family is devastated. This is a tragedy that just doesn’t end,” said Spencer Aronfeld, attorney for the family.

Soon after the death of their son, Bernabe, who at the time worked as an assistant to the Coconut Creek city manager, and Odze, a retired police officer from New York, stopped living together, Aronfeld said.

Bernabe has also struggled with severe emotional issues and was recently hospitalized, he said.

Her lawyer, Balliro, did not know why she had a black eye in her arrest photo.

The Medical Examiner’s Office classified the boy’s death a homicide, based on Bernabe’s statement to police that she deliberately gave her son the Lunesta.

Detectives searched the family’s apartment on Sept. 10 and collected 68 prescription pill bottles, according to court records. Nearly all the medications, including the Lunesta, had been prescribed to Odze.

Bernabe had told police that shortly after giving the Lunesta pill to her son, she found him near several opened prescription pill bottles in her bedroom, according to court records.

It was unclear from the records how many pills he may have ingested in addition to the Lunesta.

Eszopiclone, a hypnotic used to treat insomnia, can lower breathing and metabolism and be lethal if taken in too high of a dosage, according to Sepracor, which is based in Massachusetts. The drug has not been tested in children and is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pediatric use.

In addition to manslaughter, Bernabe also has been charged with delivery of a controlled substance to a minor and knowing sale or transfer of prescription drug to an unauthorized person, authorities said.

July 23rd, 2010
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3 Responses to “Mom charged in sleeping pill overdose death of son”

  1. Reality Says:

    To the User “PastCPS”;

    I’m sure we all get the point of your postings.My only question is “Do you get the point of ours”???

    Are you as well-aware of the “numbers/statistics” of children “drugged” (legally!)while in State-Care???

    My son was placed on Amphetamines and an Antipsychotic while in JJS Care.He,at one point,ended up in ER…with a RESTING HEART RATE of 115!

    In addition,they don’t even have the common-sense as to take these kids’ VITALS on a daily basis (while on these types of drugs).

    Education means knowing “both-sides” of any debate vs just relying on textbooks and/or Articles 😉

  2. Reality Says:

    Okay,talk about “education” LOL My apologies…maybe we’re on the same-team here?! 😉

    I just noticed 2 consecutive-posts (on Kidjacked.Com) re Parental Abuses,so I took you to be a “troll” upon first glance.

    I’m off to investigate further…than comment if needed 🙂

  3. PAST.CPS Says:

    Thanks there Reality
    But before you get to get started judging me you need to do your homework!!! I have been doing this stuff for about 7 years oh k !!! Now next go to my companies web site and you read then come back and see if what you said is right STILL. I have no harm to anyone just making sure people are aware of what is going on and what is out there. Always be blessed and stay safe PAST.CPS

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