Joseph Rykiel injected a 15-year-old girl with morphine the morning of July 4, 2011, Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews told a district judge on Wednesday. Jessica Cheyanne Shearer died from an overdose later that day.
Barton County District Judge Ron Svaty found Rykiel, 31, guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and scheduled Rykiel’s sentencing for April 2.
Rykiel entered a plea of "no contest" Wednesday after plea negotiations. The original charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a child was amended to involuntary manslaughter, and the county attorney’s office dropped charges of criminal sodomy with a child 14-16 years old and aggravated endangering of a child.
Law enforcement officers weren’t immediately sure what caused the teenager’s death in 2011. An ambulance was dispatched to the basement of 2509 Walnut Drive around 5:10 p.m. on July 4, to assist a female with respiratory problems. When they arrived the girl had "passed away of unknown causes," Lt. Bill Browne of the Great Bend Police Department told reporters the following day.
"The autopsy report came back ‘mixed drug intoxication,’" which in lay terms could be considered an overdose, Matthews told the Great Bend Tribune Thursday. He recapped the evidence presented in court Wednesday after Rykiel waved his right to a preliminary hearing and entered his plea. "The predominant drug in her system was morphine."
Rykiel had been renting the basement and living at the home of Mary Coker and her fiance Jackie McHolland. One of the occupants had a prescription for morphine, which was kept in a locked box. Someone got into that box and removed the drugs, Matthews said. The victim received at least two injections, the last one on the morning she died.
That afternoon Rykiel noticed the girl was unresponsive and tried unsuccessfully to administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation before calling 911.
Last July, Coker told the Tribune that Rykiel said he had met the girl on the street two days earlier. He asked if they would allow her to stay there.
"I said no," Coker said. "I didn’t know who she was." Rykiel gave conflicting ages for the girl to Coker and McHolland, telling one she was 18 and the other she was 20.
In the short time the girl was at the residence, "he made sure she stayed in the basement," Coker said of Rykiel.
Shearer was originally from Sublette, but had been living in Garden City. The police report listed her address as that of Barton County Youth Care Inc., but the home for girls reported she’d left three days earlier.
According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Rykiel has three drug-related convictions, one driving under the influence conviction and one aggravated robbery conviction, dating back to 2001. These came in Neosho, Crawford and Labette counties.
He had been in prison since September 2004 and was released Feb. 13, 2011.