BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Relieved after a long day awaiting news from a hospital in Cincinnati, Tracey Bice slept peacefully after friends Mary Ann and Wesley Landers of Alabama posted a social media update earlier this week saying their 7-month-old daughter's surgery for a congenital throat problem was a success.
Bice's thankfulness turned to horror within hours after she heard shocking news she still can't comprehend: Mary Ann Landers was dead after an apparent heroin overdose in the girl's hospital room at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, authorities said. Her husband, Wesley Landers, was found unconscious in the bathroom of an apparent overdose.
Mary Ann Landers never used drugs as far as friends and family knew, and she married Wesley Landers only because he cleaned himself up after drug abuse that played a role in his divorce from another woman in 2010, Bice said.
"I can't answer for what happened in that hospital room because I can't get my mind around it," Bice said through tears Friday.
No charges were filed immediately in the death of the 31-year-old woman, who also has a 3-year-old daughter, but a grand jury could review the case.
Court documents say Wesley Landers, 32, of Trinity, Alabama was found with a loaded .22-caliber handgun in his pants pocket and with a heroin syringe in his arm and syringe needles strewn on the sink of a hospital bathroom.
He was arraigned Friday in Cincinnati on charges of drug possession, carrying a concealed weapon, having weapons under disability and possessing drug abuse instruments. Bond was set at $400,000.
"If the heroin epidemic has exhibited itself in a more tragic form, I haven't seen it," Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Curt Kissinger said during a hearing, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Landers' attorney did not return a telephone call. Hospital officials referred questions to police.
Wesley Landers had problems with marijuana and methamphetamine before the couple wed four to five years ago, but he appeared to be clean afterward and his wife had nothing to do with illegal drugs, Bice said.
Born last spring, the couple's daughter was soon diagnosed as having a problem with her trachea that required surgery, Bice said. Mary Ann Landers quit her job at a bank to care for the girl, and her husband continued working as a manager at a manufacturing plant to support the family.
Bice said she didn't see anything amiss the last time she saw Mary Ann Landers right after Thanksgiving.
"She didn't look different, she didn't act different. She was her normal self," she said.
Early this week the couple traveled to Cincinnati for the surgery, which was performed Wednesday. That evening, on a Facebook page about the girl, either the mother or father posted a photo of the child and a note: "Lucy is out of surgery and it all went well. Now she is resting in icu. Thank you for your prayers."
Police said they were called to the hospital about 16 hours later. The child was safe, but both parents had suffered apparent overdoses.
Relatives of the child and her parents are struggling to comprehend what happened, Bice said. So are friends.
"I don't understand what could have gone so wrong between (the surgery) and the next morning," she said.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the name of the hospital is Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Not Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.
Cornwell reported from Cincinnati.