Parents Sue The Man They Say Provided Their Daughter With Heroin

By Kelly Burch 07/17/18
"It’s time we hold these people accountable. If law enforcement has a hard time doing it, and I understand it’s a big task, we need to help them."
woman in hospital

Municipalities across the country have launched lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, and now in a first-of-its-kind move, the parents of a Colorado woman have filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the man who they say provided their daughter with heroin that nearly killed her.

“It’s time we hold these people accountable,” mother Gail Sistrunk told The Gazette. “If law enforcement has a hard time doing it, and I understand it’s a big task, we need to help them.”

Sistrunk is suing Kyle Monson, 25, the former live-in boyfriend of her daughter Carla Pena, 29. Sistrunk and Pena’s father, Carlos Pena Jr., say that Monson endangered their daughter by providing her heroin, even when she was in the hospital with a deadly infection caused by the drug.

Monson and Pena are both currently in jail pending hearing on theft charges. Pena’s parents hope that by launching the lawsuit they will be able to keep Monson away from their daughter and help their child stay sober if she is released from custody.

“This isn’t only the money, we are trying to fashion a tool to help people take back control of their communities and control this plague,” Sistrunk said. “(Carla) is obviously very important to me, but who she is, is less important. (She’s) a human being. (She) could be your sister or your friend or niece. This has to stop.”

The lawsuit says that if Pena should die of her addiction her parents would be seeking a wrongful death lawsuit. The parents tried to have criminal charges brought against Monson, but were told that they did not have enough evidence. After that, they decided to pursue the matter in civil court. 

“My client is a loving parent trying to use appropriate legal processes to save her daughter from the kinds of influences, including the influence of the defendant, that have resulted in her daughter’s addiction,” said Peter Krumholz, Sistrunk’s attorney.

Pena was hospitalized this spring for an infection and eventually needed open heart surgery. The health problems were believed to be caused by her heroin use. Even during the time she was in the hospital, Pena was using heroin. Sistrunk says that Monson brought the drugs in, but Pena insisted that she brought them in herself. Eventually, the hospital banned Monson from visiting, and Pena left against medical advice.

“The staff tried to make (Monson) understand that it was likely the heroin itself that was contaminated with staph bacteria and that injecting it into (Carla’s) bloodstream was directly pumping a fresh bacteria load into her body, making it nearly impossible for her to recover,” the complaint said.

For her part, Pena seems to still be in denial about her addiction.

“I don’t think I need (rehab),” she told The Gazette from jail. “I’m a functioning addict.”

“I can’t get mad at her because it isn’t her,” Sistrunk said. “I know my daughter is in there still. She’s buried deep, but she’s in there and I just have to let her come back out.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.