A 52-year-old Madison woman charged with homicide in the 2017 overdose death of her Lake Mills boyfriend entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease in Jefferson County Court Tuesday.
Michelle Rodriguez is charged with one count of first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of drugs and one count of manufacture/delivery of heroin in the amount of three grams or less.
The charges were filed after the March 1, 2017, death of Robert W. Daveler, 35, of Lake Mills. Rodriguez initially pleaded not guilty to both charges. The motion to amend Rodriguez’s plea was made by her defense attorney, Jeffrey De La Rosa of the State Public Defender’s Office, on Monday, Sept. 16.
If convicted of the combined charges, Rodriguez is facing a maximum sentence of 52 years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
Per state law, homicide charges can be brought if a death was caused during the delivery of a controlled substance, no matter whether the person killed was involved in any process associated with the controlled substance.
An autopsy found that the cause of death was ruled as acute mixed-drug intoxication. The drugs included heroin, cocaine, hydrocodone and ethanol.
The medical examiner found that heroin was a substantial factor in Daveler’s death.
According to the criminal complaint, Lake Mills police were dispatched to an apartment in the 300 block of North Main Street at 10:35 a.m. on March 1, 2017.
Rodriguez told police that her boyfriend and roommate was dead in the living room, according to the complaint.
Rodriguez initially stated that she had spent the night of Feb. 28 in her bedroom, the complaint states, but she changed her story the next day.
She told investigators that she was at a friend’s house and, while there, received several messages from Daveler.
The complaint states that some of the messages reportedly were incoherent, while others clearly indicated that he wanted her to bring home some crack cocaine for him.
She did not bring him any cocaine home, she said, and knew there would be a confrontation when she got home, she told authorities.
The pair reportedly verbally argued and she allegedly threw $50 at him and told him to go get the drugs himself.
According to the complaint, Rodriguez told investigators that she went into her room to avoid Daveler and he yelled that he wanted some of her heroin.
Rodriguez allegedly admitted that she got out some heroin and cooked it up for Daveler and pulled it into a syringe with some water. She told police that she went back into the living room and tossed the filled syringe at Daveler. He reportedly accused her of filling it just with water.
The complaint states that upon further conversation with police, she told them that she gave Daveler two small rocks of heroin.
She told authorities that she tried to wake up Daveler, but he was unresponsive. She stated that she thought he was breathing and he was warm to the touch, so she returned to her room for the rest of the night.
Rodriguez stated that she did not find him deceased until she awoke around 9:30 a.m. on March 1.
Rodriguez’s criminal background includes convictions for forgery, credit card fraud, issuance of worthless checks and other charges across Rock, Dane and Walworth counties.
Fewer than 1 percent of criminal offenses result in a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease — commonly called an NGI plea, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The process to enter an NGI plea is two-fold. First, the defendant must be found guilty of the offense. Then, the defendant must be examined by two independent examiners, according to DHS procedures.
The examiners must determine the defendant, as a result of a mental disease, “lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct or conform their conduct to the requirements of the law,” according to DHS.
In Rodriguez’s case, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William Hue ordered an examination of her mental capacity to be completed in the next 30 days.
The 30-day deadline for the report on Rodriguez’s mental state means the case, which was scheduled to go to trial Sept. 27, will need to be delayed.
Rodriguez is scheduled to next appear in court Thursday, Oct. 24, at 9:30 a.m. for a status conference regarding the outcome of the NGI examination.