Mother describes day of 3-year-old son's methadone overdose

Jurors listened Tuesday as the recorded voice of Alana Johnson described the day her 3-year-old son fatally overdosed on her prescription methadone.


Johnson described her son’s ashy face, his bright red lips, his dilated eyes.

“I kept trying to get him to respond to me … I rubbed his face, I said, ‘Shane, Shane, it’s mama, talk to me,’” Johnson told Richmond County sheriff’s Investigator Tim Rzasa in a recorded interview last October.

That interview was replayed Tuesday during the second day of Johnson’s trial on charges of murder. On Oct. 10, 2010, Johnson arrived with her unresponsive son at Georgia Health Sciences University Hospital, where she was questioned about the circumstances of his death.

It wasn’t until Oct. 19 that she was arrested, when investigators said they found evidence of methadone in the child’s urine. Johnson was issued liquid methadone doses through Augusta Metro Treatment Center as a way to wean her off an addiction to painkillers.

Johnson did not testify Tuesday, but recorded interviews with Rzasa and Deputy Coroner Johnny McDonald were played for jurors to give a better picture of the circumstances of her son’s death.

Her narration was coupled with a virtual tour of the single-wide trailer on the 4600 block of Mike Padgett Highway where Shane, Johnson and her husband lived.

Johnson said she took her methadone dose in the morning, then cleaned out the bottle and left it in a zippered bag on the counter. Her second dose was never found by investigators.

Early in the afternoon, Shane threw up and Johnson put him in the shower to get clean. She said she thought it was a flu bug he had picked up at a neighbor’s birthday party, but he didn’t wake up after she put him to bed.

Part of the trial focuses on the time it took for Johnson to contact authorities after her son’s death. Johnson said she called for help immediately, but McDonald said that blood had pooled in the boy’s leg, indicating he had been laying there for awhile; testimony Tuesday also stated that the boy’s temperature was low when he arrived at the hospital.

Johnson’s husband, Jack Hurd, is a witness in the case and as such was supposed to be sequestered and out of hearing of the testimony. He was arrested Tuesday for contempt of court after bailiffs caught him listening to the recordings at the courtroom door. A motion by Johnson’s attorney for mistrial was denied, but Superior Court Judge James Blanchard said his testimony will be qualified for jurors.

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