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Wife charged with murder in Newport man's methadone death

Dennis K. Parmuat returned to his Newport apartment at 11 one night last March and started drinking.

After downing about 12 beers, Parmuat took a dose of methadone provided by his wife, according to police and court documents.

Parmuat, 32, was dead within a couple of hours and now his wife, Jennifer Marie Johnson, faces a murder charge.

Washington County prosecutors on Thursday announced that they are charging Johnson, 44, with third-degree murder, alleging that she unlawfully provided a prescribed drug that killed Parmuat. A warrant was issued for her arrest; authorities do not know where Johnson is located. She had been arrested after the death, but released without charges as the investigation continued last year.

“This is yet another example of the results caused by the recklessness of those in the drug culture,” Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. “In the last few years drug overdose deaths have become a scourge upon our local communities. We in law enforcement are doubling our efforts in these types of cases as a result.”

According to the criminal complaint:

Parmuat drank about a dozen beers late March 29, 2013, at his apartment in the 1600 block of 10th Avenue. Johnson’s daughter told authorities the couple then went into their bedroom about midnight.

Johnson told investigators that Parmuat asked for some of the methadone,which is prescribed to her, to help him sleep. Johnson said she gave him 30 to 40 milliliters.

Their daughter said Johnson emerged from the bedroom about 1:40 a.m. and said something was wrong with Parmuat.

Police responded to a medical call and first encountered a panicking Johnson who yelled, “Hurry up and help him.” Parmuat was found unresponsive and gasping for air about once every 30 seconds. He was transported to Regions Hospital and was in full cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 3 a.m.

Police located an empty methadone bottle and a syringe in the bedroom. A search warrant executed after the death turned up six 150-milligram bottles of liquid methadone prescribed to Johnson.

Methadone is prescribed as a painkiller or to treat drug withdrawal.

Their daughter told police that Johnson did not appear emotional about Parmuat’s situation until police arrived, and that Johnson told her she had taken 110 milligrams of methadone before giving Parmuat the remaining amount.

The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office later concluded Parmuat died of “mixed drug toxicity.”

The felony third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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