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Newport woman charged with murder in husband’s overdose death

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • January 23, 2014 - 9:27 PM

A Newport woman has been charged with third-degree murder in the drug overdose death of her husband in March.

Jennifer M. Johnson, 44, greeted police officers in a panic at their home in the 1600 block of 10th Avenue about 1:40 a.m. the morning of March 30, yelling for them to hurry and help her husband, 32-year-old Denis K. Parmuat. Johnson told police she had given him some of her prescription methadone to help him sleep, according to a criminal complaint.

Officers found Parmuat in a bedroom, unresponsive and gasping for breath about every 30 seconds, the complaint said. He was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul and arrived in full cardiac arrest. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Johnson told investigators that Parmuat drank about a dozen beers after arriving home at 11 p.m. and had asked for some of her methadone to help him sleep, the complaint said. An autopsy showed Parmuat died from mixed drug toxicity related to the presence of methadone and ethanol in his system.

Johnson is the third person in the east metro area in the past year to be charged with murder in connection with a fatal methadone overdose.

Emily K. Frye, 22, of Oakdale, pleaded guilty in November to third-degree murder in the death of Frank Eck, a National Guard veteran who was found dead the evening of Aug. 1, 2012, behind a locked bedroom door in Scandia. She is to be sentenced next month.

A 61-year-old Prescott, Wis., man, Robert J. Whaley, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide after his wife, Emilie Whaley, 59, died at their home in July from an apparent overdose of methadone, which he admitted to police that he gave her, according to a criminal complaint. Whaley has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is pending.

“In the last few years drug overdose deaths have become a scourge upon our local communities,” Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. “We in law enforcement are doubling our efforts in these types of cases as a result.”

Jim Anderson

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