Attorney: Lexington woman accused in vinegar death has 'solid defense'

jkegley@herald-leader.comNovember 9, 2012 

An attorney for a Lexington woman accused of causing her young son's death by giving him a large dose of vinegar said Friday he thinks there is "a solid defense" to the case.

However, Matt Boyd, attorney for Deah Daniele Adams, said he could not discuss specifics about the case, which first made headlines in February.

"We believe that this was a tragedy that has been blown out of proportion," Boyd said. "There are a lot of people praying for the Adamses and we're hopeful that this will all work out for the best."

Adams, 43, pleaded not guilty in Fayette Circuit Court last month to reckless homicide in the death of her 5-year-old son, Joseph Maoping Adams.

Joseph died Dec. 3 at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital after he fell ill and became unresponsive at his family's home. About two months later, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn announced that the boy's death had been ruled a homicide. Ginn said an autopsy showed the boy had been given "a lethal amount" of vinegar.

"The child did not drink that much vinegar on his own accord," he said.

Ginn told reporters he had presented his findings to police detectives, who already had been investigating the incident. Nothing else was heard publicly for more than six months.

Police did not charge Adams; detectives turned the case over to the Office of Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, which presented the case to a grand jury in late September.

"In cases like this, the evidence drives the response," Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. "When the evidence reached a point where a case could be presented to a grand jury, that decision was made by the prosecutor's office."

Roberts said the police department had been in contact with prosecutors through the entirety of the investigation.

According to court documents, the grand jury heard testimony from at least 10 witnesses, including police officers, five doctors and both of the boy's parents, Rick and Deah Adams.

On Sept. 26, the grand jury indicted Deah Adams on one count of reckless homicide, a class D felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Rick Adams was not indicted.

Adams was not taken to jail.

The indictment and other court documents shed no light on what transpired before Joseph's death. Ginn and police have said the boy had an existing medical condition, but have not elaborated.

Vinegar is occasionally used as a home remedy for minor ailments or to induce vomiting, but poison-control experts say it does not work and is not recommended.

However, it "would be very difficult" to poison someone with vinegar, toxicologist Henry Spiller told the Herald-Leader in February. Ginn said at the time he had never worked a case before in which the cause of death was vinegar.

Attorneys Jim Lowry and Katherine Paisley also had been hired to represent Adams, Boyd said. He said he could not comment on the case in detail without conferring with the family and co-council.

He said attorneys would defend the case aggressively.

"We believe that we have a solid defense," he said. "We will pursue that defense and we believe she will be vindicated."

A status hearing in the case was scheduled for Nov. 16.

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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