Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies arrested a former employee at an assisted living facility on Friday, saying he ingested an unregulated drug called kratom and fell asleep while a disabled man in the backseat of the company minivan died in the heat.
Russell had taken John LaPointe, 35, to a doctor’s appointment on May 9 from Crossroads of Pinellas, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference. LaPointe, who had Down syndrome, was non-verbal, and had the intellectual capacity of a 1-year-old, was belted in the back seat of the van when Russell stopped at his own house on the way back to the facility. While at his home, Russell ingested two packets of kratom powder.
According to the National Institute for Health’s Drug Abuse Institute, kratom is a tree native to southeast Asia. Its leaves contain compounds that cause hallucinations and other side effects.