A 50-year-old dentist and oral surgeon in Maryland is facing more than 50 years in prison for killing his 25-year-old girlfriend last year after she fatally overdosed on addictive anesthesia medications on an at-home IV station he had set up in the home they shared.
A jury in Montgomery County on Friday deliberated for less than three hours before finding Dr. James Michael Ryan guilty of one count of second-degree depraved heart murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Sarah Harris, authorities announced.
Following the two-week trial, jurors also found Ryan guilty on charges of possession with the intent to distribute midazolam and distribution of ketamine and diazepam.
“Dr. James Ryan — a well-trained oral surgeon, skilled in what he did, an expert in his field. He knew the risks of these drugs better than anyone,” Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Harrison told jurors, according to a report from The Washington Post. “And despite his vast knowledge and training in the field, he continuously provided these dangerous, deadly anesthetic drugs to Sarah Harris over a period of time even as he watched her deteriorate before his eyes.”
“Every time he gave her those drugs — whether he administered them or whether he instructed her on how to administer them to herself — a little bit of Sarah died,” Harrison added. “Until he gave them to her one too many times. And he killed her, he killed Sarah Harris. He created this risk.”
In a press release, authorities said the investigation into Ryan began when authorities responded on Jan. 26, 2022, to a call about an overdose at the home Ryan and Harris were renting in the 13900 block of Godwit Street in Clarksburg, Maryland.
According to court documents, Ryan said he went to bed at 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2020. He said the alleged victim was “okay when he went to bed,” However, when he went back downstairs on Jan. 26, 2022, he told police he found her “unresponsive on the couch with used hypodermic needles and various vials of controlled dangerous substances bottles nearby,” the court paperwork indicates.
Despite lifesaving measures from Montgomery County Fire Rescue, Harris died there, the press release stated.
Ryan was first arrested and charged in Harris’ death in March 2022.
Ryan and Harris first met when she visited his office for a medical procedure in the fall of 2020. During the procedure, Harris shared that she had experience working in a dental office. Ryan later contacted Harris about a job at his office. Harris accepted the offer and began working for him as a surgical technician.
In January 2021, Harris and Ryan began dating, with Harris spending “significant time” at Ryan’s home, authorities said. The two began living together permanently in the summer of 2021. Despite outspoken concerns from her family members, Harris’ relationship with Ryan continued up until her death from overdosing.
Authorities said an autopsy determined that her cause of death was ketamine and diazepam intoxication. Various vials of the drugs, hypodermic needles, syringes, and tourniquets were also found in the home.
According to text messages obtained by authorities, Harris asked Ryan to provide her with drugs from his medical practice. Ryan then told Harris how to use the drugs he provided. The two also discussed ways to make the effects of the drugs more potent and how to help Harris recover from the effects as quickly as possible.
Ryan, who did not testify during the trial, is facing up to 55 years in a state correctional facility.
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