Hempfield doctor wants to withdraw plea in overdose death
A Hempfield doctor scheduled to be sentenced Monday for prescribing a patient a fatal dose of methadone wants to withdraw his no contest plea entered in March.
Edgar Peske, 80, in court documents filed last week, contends his conduct did not cause the 2015 death of Nicole Henderson, 30, of Unity and wants a jury to decide his case.
As a result, Monday’s sentencing hearing before Westmoreland County Judge Tim Krieger was canceled. The judge will schedule another hearing to consider Peske’s request to withdraw his plea.
Peske was charged in 2017 with drug delivery resulting in death and two other counts related to Henderson’s fatal overdose. Peske entered a no contest plea to the all three charges he faced and at the time said it was in his best interest to do so.
Prosecutors said Peske prescribed 100 methadone pills for Henderson’s withdrawal symptoms two weeks before she died. After her pharmacy refused to fill the order, Peske reissued the prescription with the notation that it was for pain management, investigators said.
Henderson died one day later, according to court records.
Investigators contended Henderson had been a longtime patient of Peske’s and that he knew she had a history of addiction.
Henderson was one several patients who were prescribed a total of more than 104,000 pills by Peske in the previous 22 months, police said. One patient, according to court records, was prescribed 30 pills a day of the painkiller oxycodone.
Defense lawyers Brian Aston and Ken Noga, in court documents filed Friday, said Henderson would not have died had she taken the prescribed medication as her doctor had advised.
“The petitioner avers there is no indication Ms. Henderson had ever overdosed on medication prescribed by him in the course of his treatment over many years and he had no reason to believe she would on methadone,” the lawyers wrote.
They also contended Henderson had suicidal tendencies and that her overdose may have been an intentional act to take her own life.
Prosecutors said state guidelines call for Peske to receive at least 6 1/2 years in prison for the two most serious charges against him.
“The picture painted by the delivery of drugs to Ms. Henderson by the defendant was not one in which a doctor was caring for his patient, but in fact the opposite,” wrote deputy attorney generals Jeffrey Baxter and Summer Carroll. “He was not caring for her, nor was he practicing medicine.
“He was allowing her addiction to take root and strengthen, and finally he, by his actions, allowed it to take her life.
“Each red flag, each warning sign throughout the years, was a cry for help. Each and every one was ignored by the defendant.”
Peske is free on recognizance bond and no longer practices medicine, according to his lawyers.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .