A Great Falls woman was arrested Thursday in the near-fatal poisoning of her 3-year-old son, who was brought to the Benefis emergency room screaming and hallucinating after an apparent Benadryl overdose.
Stephanie Dawn (Kirk) Vaughan, in Cascade County regional jail on a preliminary bond of $100,000, is scheduled to make her initial appearance in Justice Court this morning.
She faces four felony charges -- endangerment, distribution of dangerous drugs and two counts of possession of dangerous drugs as well as a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.
According to an affidavit filed Thursday in District Court, Great Falls Police Officer Robert Beall was called to the ER about 6:30 p.m. March 12. There he met with Vaughan, her newlywed husband, Jeff Vaughan, and Jeff's brother, David Vaughan.
David said he called police because he believed Stephanie had poisoned her son, Beall said in his report.
The doctor on duty, Tom Zavoral, told Beall the boy had acute toxicological syndrome, a life-threatening form of poisoning most likely caused by an overdose of household or prescription medication. The boy, whose name was not released, was screaming and hallucinating that bugs were crawling all over him, Zavoral said.
Tests later revealed the boy had the equivalent of 10 to 12 Benadryl tablets in his system; 16 would be fatal, the affidavit said.
Benadryl is used for colds and contains an ingredient that causes drowsiness.
In an interview March 17, Stephanie Vaughan denied drugging her son, but then admitted to Detective Bill Bellusci that she gave the boy Benadryl and Tylenol 3 with codeine to quiet him down so she could rest, the affidavit said.
Jeff Vaughan told Bellusci that he met his wife on the Internet. They married Dec. 28 and were having problems, and in the last week of February he asked for a divorce.
He also told Bellusci that he found narcotics, including Hydrocodone, in his sock drawer that belonged to his wife and for which she had no prescriptions. He said she had been admitted to Benefis on March 6 for a psychiatric evaluation because she'd been acting strangely, had gotten belligerent and had to be subdued, the affidavit said.
Stephanie Vaughan also told Bellusci the drugs were hers, and said her parents in Kansas sent them. Her father denied that and told Bellusci she must have taken them on her last visit, the affidavit said.
She also told an investigator from the Department of Public Health and Human Services that she often "blanks out" and doesn't know what she's doing.
And the week Jeff Vaughan asked for the divorce, sulfuric acid was spilled on their cat. Stephanie Vaughan later admitted to pouring it on the cat because it was always rubbing up against her, the affidavit said.
Tuesday, the police department received the results of a drug screening performed on the boy that indicated benzodiazepine and codeine were found in his system.
The boy has recovered and is in foster care, David Vaughan said Thursday night.
His mother was arrested and booked into the jail Thursday morning.
Criminal endangerment and possession of dangerous drugs each carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine; distribution of dangerous drugs carries two years to life and a $50,000 fine, and misdemeanor cruelty to animals carries six months in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Drug Facts
  • Codeine's common medical uses include relief of mild to moderate pain (eg arthralgia, back pain, bone pain, dental pain, headache, migraine, myalgia and surgical pain), relief of non-productive (dry) cough, and relief of diarrhea.
  • The human body converts codeine into morphine during digestion.
  • Codeine products are diverted from legitimate sources and are encountered on the illicit market.
  • Codeine is very dangerous to people with chronic heart failure, advanced respiratory insufficiency, or bronchial asthma.
  • Codeine is the most widely used, naturally occurring narcotic in medical treatment in the world.