Parents Charged in Adult Son's Overdose

ByABC News
September 4, 2002, 2:56 PM

Sept. 10 -- The last thing Mary and Lewis Hockenbury and even New Jersey prosecutors expected was the grand jury to charge them for their son's fatal heroin overdose.

Leonardo DiPasquale, 18, died at his parents' home of a heroin overdose in July 2001.

Prosecutors say DiPasquale was with two friends, Christine Curtin and Erica Poch, when he overdosed almost immediately. Curtin and Poch, Hunterdon County assistant prosecutor Katharine Errickson said, did not take a comatose DiPasquale to the hospital immediately because they did not want to get in trouble. They allegedly drove around with DiPasquale for approximately two hours before finally contacting his parents.

Last month, New Jersey prosecutors got their wish when a grand jury indicted three people in the case Curtin and Poch on charges of second-degree reckless manslaughter and drug distribution for allegedly providing DiPasquale with the drugs and causing his death, and James Bowkley for alleged drug distribution.

An Unexpected Indictment

However, grand jurors went a step further: they also indicted DiPasquale's parents, the Hockenburys, for reckless manslaughter, sparking debate about parental liability and whether parents can be held responsible for their adult children's drug-induced death.

"I had not really anticipated the grand jury charging the parents with anything," said Errickson. "There was certain conduct by the parents after they were contacted that the grand jury believed was reckless conduct and led to Leo's death. There were conscious steps taken by the parents at that point that the grand jury considered reckless."

According to prosecutors, DiPasquale had overdosed before and he was also charged previously for drug distribution in another person's fatal drug overdose. Errickson could not comment on the specific allegations against the Hockenburys because they have not been made public yet, and the parents are awaiting arraignment. She only said that they were being charged for their actions after learning about their son's condition, not for their son's drug use.