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Mother accused of overdosing her children

By Scott Jenkins

Salisbury Post

A Salisbury woman faces felony child abuse charges after authorities say she intentionally overmedicated her two children, sending them to the hospital.

Nancy Michelle Mason, 32, of 1034-A E. Lafayette St., was jailed Wednesday under $75,000 bond.

Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said Mason’s 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter fell ill Jan. 12 at Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Elementary School, where they are students.

Both children were taken by ambulance to Rowan Regional Medical Center, then transferred to NorthEast Medical Center in Concord, Wilhelm said.

Doctors immediately suspected the children had been overmedicated, “and through our investigation, we determined that did in fact happen,” Wilhelm said.

Authorities determined the children had been given high doses of Risperdal, an antipsychotic prescription drug. Wilhelm said the drug was prescribed to at least one of the children.

Wilhelm said investigators didn’t know how much medication the children had been given or if the alleged overmedication was a one-time occurrence.

“The school had noticed that the children, a lot of times, would be overly sleepy, but I can’t say that had been an ongoing issue,” he said. “This is the first time the symptoms were severe enough that the children had noticeably something wrong and were taken to the hospital.”

Wilhelm described the children on Jan. 12 as having “seizure-like symptoms” but could not be more specific. Koontz Principal Robert Heffern said he wouldn’t describe their condition exactly that way. He said the children were “obviously physically ill and not real responsive.”

“That caused us concern, and when a parent couldn’t be reached, our school nurse recommended that we call the rescue squad,” he said.

Heffern said he couldn’t elaborate about the children’s symptoms, either, but he said it was not “a case where all of this came on suddenly. I think it was a gradual onset, but the fact it was impacting both of them caused us concern. They both had the same difficulties and you wonder about that.”

He said school officials’ main objective was “to get them the proper help. We’re glad that they got it and glad that whatever the situation is, it’s being resolved.”

Wilhelm said the Rowan County Department of Social Services took custody of the children after their release from the hospital. Barbara Sharpe, a supervisor in the Children’s Services Division, said she could not confirm that Social Services had custody of the children or whether it had even opened a case.

Mason pleaded guilty in March 2005 to misdemeanor child abuse. An arrest warrant from that case said that she “did willfully … inflict physical injury” on her son, resulting in a gash on his forehead.

According to court records, Mason completed coping and parenting skills classes at Daymark Recovery Services and told administrators there she had successfully learned “alternatives to physical discipline in her child-rearing practices.”

In accepting her guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to oppose Mason’s prayer for judgment continued, which essentially means a judgment was not entered and the case remains open.

District Attorney Bill Kenerly said his office will review that earlier case, depending on what comes of the charges filed this week.

Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248 or sjenkins@salisburypost.com.

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