The Prince William County man charged with murder for allegedly letting his housemate's baby drown in a bathtub while he was asleep has been on federal probation for illegally distributing OxyContin, according to court documents.
Stephen Randall Wendel, 35, was sentenced in January in federal court in Alexandria to three years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute OxyContin, a powerful FDA-approved pain remedy that has been frequently abused and sold on the black market. Court documents said Wendel was assisting a network of up to 80 doctors and patients who were illegally distributing the drug in Virginia and elsewhere.
In addition, between the time he pleaded guilty in October and his January sentencing, Wendel failed to report for two drug tests, did not attend two substance-abuse counseling group sessions, and submitted two urine samples that tested positive for cocaine and opiates, the documents said.
To avoid the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, Wendel tape recorded three times a government target who will likely be indicted this year. He also "did an undercover buy" of OxyContin for Prince William County police, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Wendel and his Dumfries housemate, Alison Nicole Spivey, 25, were arrested last week and charged with murder and child abuse after her 6-month-old daughter, Josephine Emma Mott, drowned after being in a tub full of water for at least two hours Friday morning.
Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said this week that authorities are investigating whether Spivey and Wendel were abusing drugs around the time of the incident.
The girl's father, Joseph Mott, had dropped her off at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Wendel's mobile home on Prince William Circle. Spivey, Mott's former fiancee, had been living with Wendel for a couple of months, Mott said. At 10:30 a.m., Wendel put the baby and the baby's 3-year-old brother in the tub and started to fill it up. Wendel then went into his bedroom and fell asleep on the floor, according to a search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday morning.
At about 12:30 p.m., Spivey, who also had been sleeping, woke to the water running in the tub and saw it was overflowing with the baby inside. She ran screaming into Wendel's bedroom holding the baby.
Then someone called rescue authorities to report that the baby was dead.
"It appears that these individuals are under the influence of intoxicants or mind-affecting drugs or substances," the affidavit said. The baby was pronounced dead at Potomac Hospital.
Wendell and Spivey both remain held without bond and face a Oct. 26 preliminary hearing.
Prince William County prosecutors said Wendell must be convicted of his state charges before he is considered to have violated his federal probation.
Wendel's federal case is part of an investigation nicknamed "Cotton Candy" that focused on 60 to 80 doctors, pharmacists and patients who allegedly have been illegally distributing OxyContin since the late 1990s. The federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force has involved law enforcement assistance from Fauquier, Fairfax and Prince William counties, as well as a slew of federal agencies, including the FBI.
Wendel obtained his OxyContin pills on a monthly basis from the Dulles Pain Management Center in Centreville, a clinic whose physician, Joseph K. Statkus, has become a major target of a federal investigation into the drug's illegal dissemination.
Without specifying which doctor, the documents say that Wendel "obtained Oxy pills from the Centreville doctor and distributed some of the pills to others. [Wendel] played a relatively minor role in the conspiracy."
Operation Cotton Candy is also examining whether McLean doctor William Hurwitz prescribed "obscene amounts of Oxy and other pills" to four to six patients who died as a result. Hurwitz faces a federal trial on a 49-count indictment in early November.
Court documents linked to Wendel's plea agreement offer a detailed look into his previous drug abuse. On Feb. 4, 2003, Wendel obtained 270 OxyContin pills and 120 Roxicodone pills at the Manassas Junction Giant pharmacy using money from acquaintances, according to the plea agreement. Wendel paid those people back by giving them some of the pills he procured, the document said.
Wendel was arrested in March 2003.