2019-03-06

Liverpool woman handed nearly three-year prison sentence for causing death of her sister

by Keith Corcoran

Believing her sister Allison had been "sad and depressed," Meghan Elizabeth Nowe, who'd been addicted to pain-killers but was participating in a treatment program, gave her sister a cup containing 30 ml of the synthetic opiate Methadone prescribed to treat Meghan's dependency. Allison didn't have a Methadone prescription.

"They toasted and Allison downed it," Crown prosecutor Leigh-Ann Bryson said, referring to comments Meghan made to police in June 2017. Meghan told police she also gave Valium to Allison.

Meghan "further stated that Allison consumed wine and vodka later" on the evening of April 27, 2017.

A medical examiner later determined Allison died from the combination of Methadone and an allergy-relief product Diphenhydramine. Bryson, reading a statement of facts in court February 26, said, "alcohol may have also been a factor" in the overdose death of Allison Ann Nowe, 22.

Allison spent the evening of April 27, 2017 at her Marie Avenue apartment in Bridgewater. Her boyfriend arrived at about 9:30 p.m. and they watched a movie. She told him she'd drank three glasses of wine. He didn't notice anything out of the ordinary and wasn't aware of any drug use, Bryson said.

At one point, he tried to move her but she wouldn't wake up. He believed it was related to the alcohol consumption. He and Meghan put her on a couch, Bryson said, and she appeared to be breathing normally and they continued to monitor her.

Allison's boyfriend awoke at 7 a.m., April 28, 2017, and later left for work, but noted Allison appeared to be still breathing normally. Later in the morning Allison and Meghan's grandmother, who lived in the same apartment building, received a phone call from her daughter telling her Allison wouldn't wake up.

The grandmother went to Meghan's apartment and noted Allison was white and cold. Unable to find a pulse, a call was made to 911 and the grandmother attempted CPR until paramedics arrived at 11 a.m. Paramedics noted Allison was warm, but in cardiac arrest. Subsequent treatment proved unsuccessful.

"The only substance use by the patient that Meghan disclosed to EHS [Emergency Health Services] was a little bit of marijuana," Bryson said.

Factoring in the absence of circulation and no reading on a heart monitor, Bryson added, "EHS estimated that Allison had been dead for two to four hours based on the indications they observed."

Police arrested Meghan June 8, 2017, after the results of the autopsy.

Meghan, 28, of Liverpool, Queens County, admitted in January to charges of criminal negligence causing the death of her sister and trafficking Methadone.

Judge Cathy Benton accepted the sentencing recommendation requested by Bryson and defence lawyer Darren MacLeod, who asked for two years and 292 day of federal prison on a go-forward basis.

"With any case such as this there may be a segment of the public who think no sentence is high enough for causing a death," Bryson said in her submission to the judge, "and another group who think there should be no crime at all; that personal choice should cancel out causation."

"In Canada, that is not the law. Voluntary consumption does not break the chain of causation. Anyone who provides illegal drugs to another person with a death resulting can and should be held responsible."

Bryson said Meghan had a criminal record and served various jail sentences for crimes motivated by drug addiction.

MacLeod said the prison punishment doesn't change what happened and his client is serving a life sentence, although not behind bars.

The circumstances of the incident were described as an "accident" and a "tragedy."

Bryson called the victim impact statement filed by the mother of Meghan and Allison Nowe as "heart-wrenching" as it describes a heart-broken mother angered with the health and mental health care systems who feels guilt as she didn't know Allison was also using drugs.

Members of the Nowe family were in court for the sentencing.

"They want to see Ms. Nowe move on as best she can," MacLeod said.

As part of her sentence, Meghan had to submit a DNA sample to the national databank and must abide by a 10-year firearms prohibition. Charges of manslaughter and breach of probation were dismissed following sentencing.

Allison, a graduate of Bridgewater's Park View Education Centre, had attended university in Halifax, according to a published obituary. She worked at a fast food restaurant and lived in Bridgewater at the time of her death.

"She was very artistic and had a great talent for drawing, makeup and fashion," reads the obituary. "She loved shopping, vintage things, and photography ...."

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