BUFFALO - A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in connection with the 2003 death of a Buffalo baby who died from a lethal dose of oxycodone.

Kenneth J. Rice, Chris Jason Rice and Christina June Rice filed the lawsuit against Sharon Rowley, Wilbur Hancock and Karen Clerico on July 25 in Harper County District Court.

Kenneth Rice is the father and Chris and Christina Rice are the grandparents of Garrett Bailey Rice, 1, who died while under the supervision of Sharon Rowley in November of 2003. Hancock lives with Rowley and is the father of Karen Clerico who owns the property where the death occurred.

The petition for wrongful death says the defendants’ negligence caused the baby’s death and the plaintiffs are suing for medical, hospital, funeral, burial expenses and the baby’s lifetime earnings.

“As a further result of the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiffs have suffered the loss of the value of Decedent’s earnings for the balance of his lifetime and the loss of Decedent’s services, care, love, affection and consortium, which were and are of great value to them,” the petition said.

Clerico said she received the petition Friday at her home in Red Wing, Minn. According to the petition, she has 20 days to respond or judgment will be rendered against her and the two other defendants named in the suit.

“I am horrified,” Clerico said. “They are coming after me and I haven’t even been in Oklahoma since I was a young child. How can they do this?”

Clerico and Hancock jointly own the property where the baby died. She said her father and Rowley are innocent and were not taking any prescription drugs with oxycodone at the time of Rice’s death. She said an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent confirmed that.

“They’ve never even proven who gave (Garrett Rice) that medicine,” Clerico said. “I know in my heart that my father or Sharon would never do anything to him.

“There’s something strange going on here.”

Clerico fears that this lawsuit will literally kill her father who now lives in Perryton, Texas with Rowley. She said two years ago her father was only given a few months to live.

“The man is in horrible health,” Rowley said. “Only 20 percent of his heart is working. If this doesn’t kill him, I don’t know what will.”

Clerico has many questions about the suit. She says it’s wrong that she is named in the suit just because she owned the property where the death occurred. The Rices’ attorney, Michael Meinders of Woodward, said Clerico is fair game.

“We’re trying to find out what exactly took place,” Meinders said. “She may have a homeowner’s policy to cover something like this.

“. . . You sue everybody and let the court work it all out in the end.”

Clerico questioned why Casey Atkins, the mother of Garrett Rice, was not named as a plaintiff in the petition. Meinders could not answer that.

“That’s a good question,” Meinders said. “I guess she just chose not to.”

Rowley, who has maintained her innocence, was the last person to see Garrett Rice alive. She was babysitting him while Kenneth Rice was in an Oklahoma City hospital. Rowley said last November that the baby had been under her care for 20 hours before she found him dead.

Garrett Rice’s body was then sent to the state medical examiner who determined that the baby died from a dose of oxycodone lethal enough to kill an adult. Oxycodone is a narcotic found in prescription pain medication like Lortab.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation looked into the case and turned over its findings to the Harper County District Attorney’s office which is still investigating the case.

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