A 61-year-old Prescott, Wis., man was charged with first-degree reckless homicide after his wife, Emilie Whaley, died from an apparent overdose of methadone, which he admitted to police that he gave her, according to the criminal complaint.

It is the third time in the past year an arrest has followed a fatal methadone overdose in the east-metro region.

Robert J. Whaley made his first appearance on Wednesday before Pierce County Circuit Judge Joseph Boles, where a signature bond of $25,000 was set, along with a preliminary hearing on Aug. 12.

According to the complaint, Whaley called police to his home about 4:11 a.m. Tuesday after his wife had stopped breathing. Police found her lying on a couch, and Whaley agitated, asking repeatedly, "Is she going to be all right?"

He told the first officer to arrive that he had obtained 100 milligrams of liquid methadone, and that he had taken half and his wife had taken the other half, the complaint adds. The officer began CPR, and was later joined by an ambulance crew, but after 40 minutes of effort she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators located a bottle in the trash at the home that had apparently contained the drug. Whaley told officers he called for help when his wife became unresponsive. While being questioned, he blurted out: "I killed her. I split it with her," adding that she was "pretty much out as soon as we took that crap."

According to the complaint, at one point he turned to an officer, crying, and said "I am so stupid, I killed her."

In the past year, two other people in the region have been arrested stemming from fatal overdoses of methadone, a powerful drug that is similar to morphine and used both as a pain reliever and to assist those withdrawing from addiction to narcotics such as heroin.

Last Aug. 1, Frank Eck, a 23-year-old National Guard member from Scandia, died from a methadone overdose. Emily K. Frye, 21, of Oakdale, was charged with third-degree murder in connection with his death. Her next court appearance is Oct. 30.

And on March 30, Denis K. Parmuat, 32, of Newport, died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul after he overdosed on the prescription drug. A 42-year-old woman was arrested in that case, but charges have not yet been filed. Information in that case is still being gathered, said Assistant Washington County Attorney Fred Fink, head of the criminal division.

Washington County has seen a marked increase in methadone overdoses in the past year, Fink said, putting the number at about half a dozen. "That's certainly enough to get our attention," he said.

Data reported last month by the Minnesota Department of Human Services finds the trend continuing elsewhere as well.

From 2011 to 2012, deaths from opiates — which includes heroin, methadone and other drugs — remained the same in Hennepin County and increased in Ramsey County. There were 84 opiate-related deaths in Hennepin County, while the number in Ramsey County went from 36 to a record-high 45, a 25 percent increase.

In Hennepin County, 13 of those deaths in 2012 involved methadone, while 12 fatal cases involved methadone use in Ramsey County.

Methadone-involved hospital emergency-room visits in Minneapolis and St. Paul doubled from 2004 to 2010, yet declined slightly from 2010 to 2011, from 893 to 828, the report says.

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson