A man and woman who threw a party during which a teen girl died are headed to jail. In February of last year, Katherine McAloon, 28, and Richard Mowery, 33, hosted a party at their Medford, Ore., residence for a 13-year-old relative of McAloon’s and her friends. During the party, McAloon provided the teens with alcohol and marijuana. There was also a helium tank, which 14-year-old guest Ashley Long inhaled from to make her voice sound squeaky. But instead of regaling friends with the age-old party trick, Long suffered an embolism and died. Authorities say McAloon and Mowery delayed providing medical care to the girl, who had collapsed on their floor. Guests initially thought that Long had passed out from intoxication. Before help arrived, McAloon attempted to revive her with CPR.
On Tuesday, McAloon dropped her not guitly plea and pleaded no contest to a charge of criminal mistreatment. Her plea, also known as an Alford plea, means that she admits that, if tried, she would likely be found guilty. She also pleaded guilty to delivering marijuana to a minor and three counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. A judge sentenced her to 28 months in prison with potential for early release, along with three years of post-prison supervision and about $300 in restitution.
Mowery will serve less time but pay a much higher restitution. After pleading no contest to criminally negligent homicide, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $10,000 restitution. Prosecutors said that the “sentence lengths are tied to the evidence” but did not offer an explanation for the discrepancy in McAloon’s and Mowery’s sentences. Prosecutors also said the pair showed poor judgement but were not malicious. One aggravating factor that may possibly have led to McAloon’s longer sentence is that she was seen on surveillance footage purchasing alcohol for the party.
The helium tank, intended to inflate a floating toy, came with a warning which read ”Do not place nozzle in mouth or nose for any reason. Doing so can damage lungs and other bodily parts, which can result in serious personal injury or death.” Disregarding that warning and inhaling the helium, a practice widely regarded as harmless fun, caused an air bubble to enter Long’s bloodstream and block blood flow to her heart. Her death was ruled accidental.