Two Wyoming parents were arrested following the July death of their 16-year-old son. They are accused of providing a minor with alcohol and of involuntary manslaughter.
Joseph M. Richardson and Paulette L. Richardson live in Urie, Wyoming. Paulette’s biological child and Joseph’s stepson, Kendal Balls, had reportedly been vocal about his interest in drinking alcohol for years, according to court documents cited by the Uinta County Herald.
The couple wanted to teach Balls about the dangers of drinking and decided to allow him to drink, under their supervision. They were hoping to give him enough liquor to make him vomit, thus deterring him from drinking in the future, Joseph told police, according to an affadavit.
This "tough love" approach backfired tragically.
Joseph and his friend Joseph Kunkle drank with Balls on July 6 with Paulette reportedly keeping an eye on her son.
They allegedly drank beer, Fireball and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Balls went to bed at 10:30 p.m. His parents periodically checked on him, and Joseph found the teenager unresponsive at around 3:45 a.m. on July 7. Paramedics arrived at the home and pronounced Balls dead.
The toxicology report provided by Uinta County Coroner Greg Grandall revealed the teen had a blood alcohol level of 0.587 when he died, according to the Uinta County Herald. A blood alcohol level of 0.40 and above qualifies as a lethal dose, Clemson Redfern Health Center notes.
Uinta County Attorney Loretta Gerrard thinks the method of intentionally getting a minor sick to set them straight needs to be retired.
“I am not here to make parenting decisions for people,” Gerrard said in a statement. “What I hope people understand, however, is that some traditional parenting lore, wives' tales or theories don’t apply in an age where we have refined products that accelerate the effect of chemicals on the human body.”
The Uinta County Herald reports that Paulette told police she wanted to steer her son away from drinking because his biological father is an alcoholic, the Uinta County Herald reported. She feared her son would grow up to have the same addictions.
The Richardsons were charged on on Sept. 8 with involuntary manslaughter and are set to appear in court on Sept. 18 for a preliminary hearing. If convicted, they could both face up to 20 years in prison.