Ilo Marie Grundberg is finally feeling a calm and peace that didn't come from a bottle of prescription pills.

The Hurricane woman, a prisoner of a prescription drug for nearly two years, said she's finally free - free of addiction, hospitals, jail.She's free of the living hell that had held her captive since June 19 when the soft-spoken woman pulled out a .22-caliber revolver, pointed it at her mother's head and began shooting.

In a landmark decision Tuesday, 5th District Judge J. Philip Eves dismissed second-degree murder charges against Grundberg, who has openly admitted to the shooting death of her mother, Mildred Coats.

Ironically, state prosecutors made the motion for dismissal.

The shooting, sadly, occurred after Grundberg slipped a birthday card into her mother's hand; the next day would have been Coats' 83rd birthday.

After placing towels beneath the victim's head, Grundberg sat down and calmly wrote out a detailed confession.

Yet Grundberg's St. George attorney, Gary Pendleton, for months has argued that she was deprived of the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her act.

Tuesday, he successfully convinced the court - and the prosecutors - that at the time of the shooting, his client was involuntarily intoxicated by the most commonly prescribed sleeping pill in America - Halcion.

"I feel wonderful. Justice was done," the weary but overjoyed Grundberg said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News. "It wasn't my fault what happened. It was the drug. I feel God and Mom were working to help me through it. I am crying tears of joy."

Sharing those tears was Grundberg's daughter, Janice Gray.

"By the grace of God, I have got my mother back," an emotional Gray said. "She knows that Grandma has been on her shoulder the whole time. She has been. For the first time in my life, I see my mom with hope."

It's the first time in Utah legal history that an attorney has proved a case of unintentional intoxication.

But Pendleton believes it's too early to tell if the case will have a far-reaching effect on the millions of Americans who take Halcion nightly to go to sleep.

"A drug company that is marketing a product with $250 million a year in sales is now faced with the testimony of two court-appointed physicians who testified under oath that in their opinion she (Grundberg) was involuntarily intoxicated to the point of lacking substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her act," Pendleton said.

The physicians, both specialists from the Utah State Hospital, "testified that in their opinion, but for the ingestion of Halcion, the shooting would never have occurred."

But Pendleton said the unanswered question is, What will a responsible drug company do with the verdict? Do they re-examine the drug, test it further, undertake a better method of educating physicians who are prescribing that drug?

"If it (Upjohn Corp.) does any of those things, so much the better. But the ball is now in their court," Pendleton said.

No one will be watching Upjohn's actions more closely than Grundberg, who Tuesday embarked on a campaign to warn others of the danger of drug addiction.

"I don't want anyone to go through what I've gone through. I feel like I've been through a living nightmare," she said.

Grundberg's encounter with Halcion began in May 1987, long before she and her mother, who was also using the drug, moved into the Lava Bluff Trailer Estates in Hurricane.

Neighbors, who initially noticed nothing peculiar about their new neighbor, three months later though she was going insane.

What they've since learned is that she was addicted.

Upjohn recommends that Halcion be prescribed in dosages of .25 milligrams and for no more than two to three weeks at a time. But Grundberg's doctors prescribed Halcion for 13 consecutive months, and the three months prior to the slaying, the dosage was raised from .25 milligrams to .5 milligrams - a dosage twice the level currently manufactured and dispensed.

The homicide, the court ruled, was a tragic side-effect of the quick-acting benzodiazepine that has quickly become the most frequently prescribed sleeping pill in the United States.

Ilo Grundberg is no longer one of the abusers - or even users.

Following treatment at both the Western Institute of Neuropsychiatry and the Utah State Hospital, she is drug-free.

"I am off all medications and I feel great. I am not depressed. But they say it may be months before I sleep," she said.> But she isn't complaining.

Grundberg has her life back. Former neighbors are happy for her; doctors, supportive. Her family is relieved.

And Grundberg, who faced one year to life in prison, has a new will to live.> "It has been a long seven months. I am now looking forward to helping other people avoid the prescription trap. I have got so many plans to get on with my life."


Not always halcyon

What it is: A quick-acting benzodiazepine that in six years has become the most frequently prescribed sleeping pill in the United States.

Manufacturer: Upjohn Corp.

Usage: More than 9 million prescriptions filled annually in the United States. Gross sales worldwide for 1988 estimated at $265 million.

Primary users: Drug of choice of the elderly.

Benefit: It metabolizes out of the system faster than other commonly prescribed sleeping pills.> Recommended use: Best used in a short-term situational crisis in which person needs to have help sleeping. Misused when given night after night for months or years.

Possible adverse reactions: Drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness.

Rare reactions: Agitation, anxiety, depression, confusional states, anorexia, dry mouth, disorientation, cloudiness of consciousness and amnesia.>