Monday, January 08, 2007

What Was She Thinking?

We lose about a half dozen teens every year to fatal MVA's, many of which are alcohol related. Drive anywhere in this county and there is a good chance you'll encounter a small cross surrounded by a withered flower arrangement stuck in the ground at the base of a tree or off the road in a culvert; a small, sad memorial for a lost loved one.

Kids just don't have the maturity, the judgement, to realize when they are placing themselves in a dangerous situation. That's why adults are supposed to supervise them and speak our minds when we see them doing stupid stuff. And it usually works, except for this piece of work, 45 year old Kelly Lobrutto.

The drink orders were placed early in the week for Saturday night's party at the LoBrutto house on Rippleton Road. For malt-based alcoholic beverages like Smirnoff Ice, the teens paid $15 a head, while beer drinkers paid $5 to $10 each.

And it is not the first time this woman is making a major mistake by getting these kids ripped.

The festivities began Dec. 9, the same night as the Cazenovia High School winter dance, so many of the two dozen revelers didn't show up until after 10 p.m. By that time, rum, vodka and beer were flowing, according to statements the teens later gave to state police investigators. And by 3 a.m., teenagers were staggering around drunk, vomiting and passing out, according to the statements filed in Cazenovia Town Court.

Sworn statements from 23 high school students who were at the party, including LoBrutto's 17-year-old daughter, Melissa, paint a frightening picture of teenagers bingeing on alcohol that they say was purchased by their friend's mother, who partied with them. Several students interviewed said it was the fourth such party at the LoBrutto house, a detail that will be part of the prosecution's case, said state police Investigator Dennis Dougherty.

This is so wrong. Binge drinking kills over fourteen hundred young people, mostly college students, every year. Read the last link, it is heart breaking. Daniel Reardon speaks about his nineteen year old son, a college freshman who drank himself to death.

Daniel was in the hospital bed for a week before we took him off of life support. And no parent, as I did, should have to get up on a hospital gurney, and just hold his son and cry for hours that he's dead, never. Sending a child to college to die, no parent should have to go through that.

The earlier a teen starts to abuse alcohol, the more likely he will follow this destructive lifestyle as he gets older.

REYNARD KINGTON, Acting Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: We've known for many years that there was a problem, and we have evidence really dating back for decades that there's been a problem with drinking on college campuses, but we've never been able to really describe the parameters of the problem, how big of a problem it is. And I think that even the researchers who were involved from the very beginning were surprised by some of the conclusions. Just the magnitude of the problem is really enormous.

If 1,400 hippies were maced at a Grateful Dead concert we'd never hear the end of it. But back to Lobrutto.

By 10:30 p.m., the kids who had gone to the dance began to wander in. In some cases, Dougherty said, parents were dropping off their children at the LoBrutto residence, but had no idea alcohol was part of the gathering. Inside, teens were playing beer pong (a drinking game), doing shots and downing Long Island iced teas, a drink made with about five kinds of hard liquor, sweet and sour mix and a splash of cola. Kelly LoBrutto was in the kitchen, pouring shots and mixing drinks for the guests.

The partygoers had a variety of alcoholic drinks to choose from, some of which the teens brought with them. There was a case of Smirnoff Ice; a 30-pack of Keystone beer; a case of Bud Light; and bottles of Jagermeister; Bacardi rum; tequila; and Ice 101, a peppermint schnapps.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. It was only by the grace of God someone wasn't seriously hurt.

By midnight, one of the partygoers, a 17-year-old training to be an emergency medical technician, told police he realized some of his friends were in trouble. They were vomiting, and one friend was passed out on the bathroom floor. He and another friend carried their classmate upstairs and put him to bed. The EMT-in-training found more classmates upstairs who were sick. He stayed with them while they vomited, and began a vigil, going upstairs every 10 to 15 minutes to make sure his friends were OK.

He might have been the only one with a lick of sense at this party. And all he did was babysit some drunks. If those kids were really in trouble he would have been overwhelmed. And they could have been brain damaged or dead. Checking someone every 10t o 15 minutes to see if they are still breathing means they could be dead for nine minutes before he returns.

Throughout the evening, Kelly LoBrutto watched as students came and went. Some were picked up by parents, who didn't know what was going on inside the house; others drove themselves to and from the party. One teen told police Kelly LoBrutto woke some partygoers at 7 a.m. and ordered them out of the house. She scolded one of the girls for ruining the party by getting sick.

Melissa LoBrutto told investigators hat she spent the money she collected for the party on Christmas gifts at Carousel Center. "My first priority is my mom and protecting her," Melissa LoBrutto told police. "In the morning my mom wasn't mad at me; she was mad at everyone else."

Who's the kid here? A set of ovaries does not automatically qualify someone to be a mother. And what's with these parents? Can't they smell the booze on their children as they stagger into the car???

Kelly LoBrutto, 45, was charged with a handful of misdemeanors, including endangering the welfare of a child, unlawfully dealing with a child and criminal nuisance. She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and is scheduled to appear in Cazenovia Town Court on Feb. 13.

Perhaps a stretch in the slammer will impart some smarts.

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