Maryland cops charge oral surgeon James Ryan with ‘depraved-heart’ murder after his patient-turned-girlfriend overdosed on drugs he fed her: Victim’s sister handed cops evidence including text saying ‘I think ketamine works well for you’
James Ryan, 48, was apprehended by Montgomery County police at his Germantown, Maryland, practice and held in jail without bond Tuesday
The veteran oral surgeon is charged with ‘depraved-heart’ murder after his patient-turned-girlfriend overdosed on drugs he fed her through IV
The arrest follows the January death of his live-in girlfriend, 25-year-old Sarah Harris, a former patient and employee of the doctor
Cops say Ryan plied the victim with drugs such as ketamine and propofol intravenously and through injections prior to her overdose death January 26
He faces a maximum of 78 years behind bars if convicted, cops said Tuesday
The doctor illegally obtained the drugs from his practice, as well as medical apparatuses such as IV stands, needles, and IV bags
Victim’s sister cracked case after handing cops evidence including text saying ‘I think ketamine works well for you’
Text messages between the pair chart Harris’ spiraling addiction and Ryan’s extensive efforts to supply her with an array of ‘controlled dangerous substances‘
An oral surgeon accused of plying his patient-turned-girlfriend with addictive anesthetic drugs including ketamine through an IV has been arrested and charged with her murder, after she died from a drug overdose at his home.
James Ryan, 48, was apprehended by Montgomery County police at his practice in Germantown, Maryland, and was being held in jail without bond Tuesday, following the January death of 25-year-old Sarah Harris, a former patient and employee of his, cops said.
Ryan has since been charged with second-degree ‘depraved-heart’ murder, as well as six felony counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, and one count of reckless endangerment.
Ryan is facing eight decades behind bars after police said Harris, who had been living with the doctor at his Clarksburg home for seven months before her death, sank into addiction as Ryan steadily supplied her with an array of powerful prescription drugs both intravenously and with injections.
Montgomery County police also accuse the dentist of injecting Harris, an aspiring model who competed in the Ms. Maryland Petite competition last March, with drugs while she slept, court documents reveal.
Following Harris’ fatal overdose, Harris’ older sister, Rachel, was able to access her phone and social media accounts, police said, and found the incriminating text messages between her and Ryan.
Explained, with depraved-heart murder it is presumed that the defendant has shown an extreme indifference to life. The charge focuses more on the recklessness shown by the crime, rather than a knowing intention to harm someone.
The defendant has acted in a way that is dangerous to others and shows no regard for human life. It is typically considered second- or third-degree murder.
Following the fatal overdose, her older sister, Rachel, was able to access her phone and social media accounts, police said, and found the incriminating text messages between her and Ryan.
She put the exchanges in a binder, and handed them over to Montgomery County police.
‘The conversations are very frank and often depict Sarah Harris asking Ryan to procure/obtain different drugs,’ detectives remarked in the complaint.
The doctor regularly fed his live-in girlfriend ketamine, a type of anesthetic, intravenously, narcotics detectives said. High amounts of the drug were found in her system following her death January 26.
The doctor illegally obtained the drugs from his practice.
Ryan is not accused of premeditation, police said, but instead showed ‘an extreme indifference’ to her life by continually providing her with drugs he knew to be dangerous – hence the depraved-heart charge.
Text messages between the two recovered by police and detailed in the criminal complaint against the doctor show a drug-addled Harris appearing to have a bad reaction to the anesthetic.
‘I feel so disoriented,’ Harris texted Ryan on September 28, the criminal complaint against the doctor reads.
‘It’s the ketamine, the combo (with) maybe the neurontin,’ Ryan assured her, referring to the IV-implemented anesthesia and a medication commonly used for nerve pain.
They have interactions,’ the doctor said. ‘Is it hard to walk?’
‘No,’ Harris responded, ‘just feel like I’m kinda floating.’
Harris died on January 26, after overdosing on the ketamine, as well as the sedative Diazepam. Police said Ryan provided her both drugs.
Detectives asserted in the filing: ‘After moving in with Ryan, Sarah Harris developed and sank into a serious addiction involving multiple controlled dangerous substances provided by Ryan.’
Officers described the doctor’s actions, including setting up a home delivery system for Harris before they moved in together, cops said, as ‘tantamount to an open supply’ of drugs.
‘Sarah Harris developed an ever-worsening addiction that was continuously fed over the months by Ryan,’ lawmen wrote.
Ryan and the victim began dating in early 2021, according to lawmen, after she visited his office to have her wisdom teeth removed.
Shortly after, the dentist offered her a job at his practice. She moved in with the doctor later that year, cops said, during which time relatives grew concerned over the woman’s drug use.
Harris’ family first suspected she was using drugs after noticing her wearing long sleeves at family gatherings despite very hot weather, suggesting she was hiding needle marks.
The complaint describes one such instance that took place in October, where two relatives went to Harris’ house and found her ‘in an altered state.’
One of the relatives forced her to roll up her sleeves, detectives described, where they saw both of her arms ‘covered with needle marks and bruises that were in various stages of healing.’
The text messages between Harris and Ryan detailed how Ryan would then offer Harris an in-depth itinerary of drugs and medical apparatus he planned to bring home from his practice, including IV bags, needles, and an IV pole.
In one exchange, Ryan seemed to instruct Harris to come to his office, and retrieve drugs and medical supplies from the trunk of his car.
Another indicated that Ryan injected Harris with ketamine while she was sleeping.
While Ryan did not premeditatedly kill Harris, police conceded, he instead showed ‘an extreme indifference’ to her life by continually providing her with drugs he knew to be dangerous – hence the depraved-heart charge.
Detectives revealed that Harris admitted to overdosing on ketamine, but narrowly surviving, in one Instagram exchange with a friend, in December.
Other messages recovered by police show Harris asking Ryan for certain drugs, which he would provide and instruct her on how to use.
Police began investigating Ryan after they were called to the pair’s residence following Harris’ overdose.
Court records describe responding EMTs’ unsuccessful efforts to revive Harris. Ryan told the officers he found Harris unresponsive on a downstairs couch after waking up that morning.
Narcotics investigators recovered two bottles containing residue of injectable propofol, four bottles with residue of injectable sedative midazolam, and one bottle partially filled with injectable ketamine, court records reveal.
‘These bottles are not the type of medication that would normally be dispensed from a pharmacy, and are usually reserved for clinical, medical settings,’ Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said Tuesday.
Investigators also recovered an assortment of hypodermic needles, syringes, and tourniquets at the home.
A medical examiner ruled the nature of Harris’ death as ‘undetermined,’ and caused by ketamine and diazepam intoxication, the complaint shows.
Cops said Tuesday that the 10 months worth of text and social media messages, along with family testimony, helped them build a case against Ryan over the course of 10 weeks.
Police are currently looking into whether Ryan may have provided drugs to others as well.
Cops, meanwhile, allege Ryan too used the drugs.
The document also described an instance where Ryan’s employees found him asleep in his office. The doctor was so unresponsive, cops said, that staffers needed ammonia smelling salts to wake him up.
The seasoned medical professional whose website states that he’s been a dental surgeon for 20 years, and also is involved in clinical research surrounding infant and pediatric care, could spend up to 78 years in prison, if convicted of the charges.
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