INDIANAPOLIS - Prosecutors filed formal child neglect charges Friday against Stephanie Gribble, who they accuse of drugging children at her unlicensed day care.
Gribble was arrested on Feb. 14 on multiple felony counts of child neglect after four children from her day care were hospitalized for apparent drug overdoses. Court documents released Friday revealed the dire straits doctors found some of those children in.
"[The children] were in such poor condition when they arrived that medical personnel suspected brain injury was the cause of the symptoms observed," according to Dr. Rachel Morton, a pediatric hospitalist at Community Health North.
The children's symptoms ranged from drooling and drowsiness to days-long unconsciousness. Their symptoms were catalogued by investigators in a probable cause affidavit for Gribble's arrest:
One 5-year-old, a girl, complained that her back hurt and began bending sideways when she walked. She began tilting over more and more, and couldn't stay upright. She then began to "involuntarily clench her hands … she had tremors, her tongue began to hang out, she was drooling and her tongue kept swelling."
That girl's 2-year-old sister was also hospitalized after she "passed out completely" and could not be woken up, despite attempts by her family and medical professionals and even three doses of IV medication.
An 11-month-old girl in Gribble's care "appeared drunk, wasn't responding when spoken to … there were bubbles of spit coming from her mouth, she was swaying back and forth and she was grunting."
- A fourth child, a 5-year-old boy, was taken to the emergency room when he was found acting odd and drooling. "He was sitting there with his head hanging down sideways onto his chest with his tongue hanging out and drool coming from his mouth. The entire front of his shirt was soaked with his own drool. He couldn't talk at all and was shaking a little," according to court documents.
Doctors at Community Health North Hospital consulted with Poison Control and determined the most likely cause of the children's symptoms was an overdose of anticholinergic drugs – medications commonly found in sleep aids and cold medications.
Doctors determined the most likely candidates for the source of the overdose were Benadryl and Risperidone.
According to court documents, the children told investigators that Gribble would regularly give them "grape medicine" before nap time to help them sleep. A 4-year-old who attended the day care, but was not hospitalized, told police that Gribble had given her OCD medication intended for Gribble's 8-year-old son. Another child said Gribble had given her a pink pill to eat and purple liquid to drink.
Both Risperidone and Benadryl sometimes come in the form of a pink pill. Benadryl is also sometimes sold in the form of a purple liquid.
During a search of Gribble's home, which doubled as the day care business, police found an empty 30 mL bottle of Risperidone, an empty bottle of grape-flavored "Assured" brand children's night time cold and cough medicine, and a small oral syringe used to administer medication by mouth.
The active ingredient in the cold and cough medicine is Dipenhydramine, which is marketed under the trade name Benadryl.
Police said Gribble initially denied giving any medication to the children, but eventually said she had given two of the children cold medicine because they had "runny noses."
Gribble said her son had been prescribed Risperidone for his OCD, but could account for the bottle being empty when it the prescription had been filled just three days before.
Risperidone, an anti-psychotic drug that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, can cause seizures and other potentially deadly side-effects, according to Indiana Poison Control's Dr. Jerry Snow.
"[It is] extremely reckless and irresponsible for a day care provider to give young children in her care any amount of Risperidone that wasn't prescribed to them," Snow said.
Gribble was formally charged Friday with six felony counts of neglect of a dependent. An initial hearing on those charges was scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m.
Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney had been looking into Stephanie Gribble, formerly Stephanie Smith, for several weeks and learned Gribble has a history with the Family and Social Services Administration dating back to 2008.
In November 2012, the Attorney General’s Office obtained an injunction for a then-named Stephanie Smith to stop her from operating an illegal day care at 11328 Stoeppelwerth Drive in Indianapolis.
Marni Lemons, a spokesperson for the Family and Social Services Administration, told Kenney on Jan. 29 the agency followed up and Smith appeared to have moved out of the residence.
When an illegal day care is issued a cease-and-desist letter, it is warned the attorney general may seek a civil penalty of $100 a day for each day of operating without a license.
The state is still attempting to collect $3,300 in civil penalties from Gribble/Smith.
"It is important that parents understand the licensing process and that they be vigilant about ensuring that their children are being cared for by licensed providers that are operating legally," said FSSA spokesperson Marni Lemons. "For example, child care providers operating out of a home must be licensed if they care for more than five unrelated children. FSSA provides information on licensed and registered providers at www.childcarefinder.in.gov."