A former Schenectady man was sentenced to prison Tuesday for providing a powerful and illegally obtained pain-relief patch to his girlfriend, who died as a result.
Ainsworth Barnes, 49, most recently of Connecticut, was sentenced in Schenectady County Court to 31⁄2 to 7 years in prison for his actions in the Oct. 4, 2008, death of 36-year-old Kassendra Miller. He pleaded guilty in November 2013 to one count of second-degree manslaughter.
Miller, a local social worker, died at Barnes’ Hamburg Street residence from a Fentanyl overdose.
According to prosecutors, Barnes, a heroin addict, offered the patch to Miller, who wasn’t feeling well. He later applied a second patches to Miller, who was not an addict, prosecutors say, and she began to suffer ill effects from the painkiller.
However, from the time he first realized Miller was in trouble, he waited more than 12 hours to summon paramedics, prosecutors said. They said Barnes hesitated because he was afraid of police discovering that he was using and selling illegal drugs.
Prosecutor Philip Mueller said Barnes tried home remedies suggested by friends to rouse her, rather than getting professional help.
“He gambled her chances of surviving against the inconvenience of dealing with the police,” said Mueller, who works in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office.
Barnes was indicted in September 2013, about two weeks before the five-year statute of limitations would have run out on manslaughter charges.
Mueller said police and prosecutors had worked to build a case after Miller’s death. It was late in the investigation when authorities learned the patches came from Barnes, Mueller said.
Barnes was not alleged to have acted with malice, but he was accused of acting selfishly and with criminal recklessness, prosecutors said.
Barnes offered the patches, which are sometimes used by heroin addicts to combat withdrawal, after Miller complained of discomfort from minor surgery or a minor illness.
Fentanyl is an opiate-based painkiller than can be many times more potent than morphine or heroin.
The patches can also produce different side effects, depending on the person’s tolerance. Barnes and Miller may not have known how dangerous the patches were, especially for those with no tolerance, Mueller said.
Barnes helped her apply one patch, Mueller said, and when that seemed to have no effect, he gave her a second before they went to sleep. The effect of both patches ultimately caused respiratory failure.
Awakened in the middle of the night by Miller shaking, Barnes removed both patches, Mueller said, but enough of the drug was already in her system to ultimately cause her death.
Had Barnes summoned help then, Mueller said, Miller could have been saved.
Instead, he turned to a cold bath and injection with a saline solution. He also asked friends what to do; they offered ideas, but they also suggested he summon help, Mueller said.
It wasn’t until 4 p.m., more than 12 hours after he first realized Miller was in trouble, that he called for paramedics. By then, she was already dead.
Mueller described Barnes and Miller as a couple, despite his drug addiction and her career as a social worker. He said Miller has been described as a caring person who gravitated toward people who needed her.
“He was a very needy person, and she just seemed like a person who would always hold out hope of saving somebody,” Mueller said.
Barnes was represented in court Tuesday by attorney Sven Paul. Paul could not be reached for comment later. Barnes expressed remorse at the sentencing, as well as his love for Miller, and apologized to her family, Mueller said.
Also speaking at the sentencing was Miller’s mother, Catherine, who now lives in Florida. She recounted Kassendra’s upbringing in the Herkimer County village of Mohawk and her daughter’s move to Schenectady to start her career in social work.
At the time of her death, she worked at Eddy Senior Care, her mother said.
“Kassie worked tirelessly to provide support and comfort, not just to people she loved and came in contact with,” her mother said, “but anyone she met who had a need.”