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News Briefs II

N.J. Teen-Ager Who Gave Birth in Bathroom Charged With Murder

By Blaine Harden
The Washington Post

A New Jersey teen-ager who gave birth in a bathroom at her prom, then returned to the dance floor and ate a salad was charged Tuesday with murder after an autopsy found the baby she discarded in a trash can was either strangled or suffocated in a plastic bag.

"The child was alive when he was born," said Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye. "It fits the definition of a knowing murder.' "

The prosecutor told a news conference Tuesday in Freehold, N.J., that Melissa Drexler, 18, may have used the sharp edge of a sanitary-napkin dispenser to cut the umbilical cord on her June 6 prom night before dumping her newborn boy in a bag she found in a bathroom stall.

"Go tell the boys we'll be right out," Kaye quoted Drexler as telling a girlfriend who had come into the bathroom to fetch her. The prosecutor said Drexler, a vocational high-school senior who lives in Forked River, N.J., then put back on her long, sleeveless, loose-fitting black dress, cleaned herself up and went out to meet her 19-year-old date. He has since said he was the unknowing father of the child.

Kaye said the autopsy found air in the baby's intestines, proving he was able to breathe. The cause of death, he said, was "asphyxia due to manual strangulation and obstruction of the external airway or orifices." The prosecutor later said the baby either was strangled or suffocated after being put into a plastic bag.

Heroin, Speed Supplanting Crack Cocaine

By Roberto Suro
The Washington Post

Heroin and methamphetamine are rapidly supplanting crack cocaine as the drug of choice among many hard-core addicts, while a variety of "boutique drugs," along with marijuana, are gaining favor among young people, according to a nationwide study issued Tuesday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Although cocaine continues to be widely abused, the report found that the popularity of both crack and powdered cocaine is declining and that young users in particular have come to disdain crack as a "ghetto drug."

Last year, methamphetamine became the most commonly abused drug by persons seeking treatment in the San Diego area and several other parts of the West and Midwest, according to the drug report, known as "Pulse Check."

In Los Angeles, methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant commonly known as speed, ranked close behind crack cocaine as the second most common cause of admission to treatment programs, the report said.

The report, which is issued twice yearly, reflects information drawn from law enforcement officials, treatment providers and other experts on drug abuse. It is designed to identify trends in drug use and to supplement longer-term research based on population surveys. The report issued Tuesday details trends observed in the second half of 1996.