Woman Blames Cough Syrup for Cutting Victim 'in Half' With Her Car

The legal team of a woman on trial for first-degree murder is reportedly blaming cough syrup for actions that led their client allegedly hitting and killing a woman in her car.

Elizabeth McKeown, 49, was arrested in November 2018 in Springfield, Missouri, in relation to the death of a 57-year-old woman named Barbara Foster.

KY3 News reported that McKeown rear-ended Foster's vehicle in traffic for "moving too slow" at an intersection before luring Foster out of her car so she could check on the vehicle's damage.

A recorded police interview at the time of the incident was presented during the first day of the jury trial on Tuesday, in which McKeown is heard telling authorities that she was on her way to make a car payment and in a hurry because she doesn't "like to be out after dark."

The defendant reportedly told a police detective that Foster, described as "the lady with the glasses," was driving in front of her and she wouldn't move so McKeown "nudged" her a few times.

"Then I decided to go ahead and hit it full out," McKeown said in the recorded statement. "I pushed on the gas as hard as I could. Then she came to check the back of her vehicle."

When Foster exited her vehicle and assessed the damage, McKeown allegedly rammed into her.

"You know I made her think that I was going to be nice and be still and everything," McKeown told police. "She got to looking at the car. I backed up and I slammed into her, cut her in half."

When asked why she did it, McKeown reportedly responded, "Because there needed to be two, not one."

Elizabeth McKeown
Attorneys for Elizabeth McKeown, 49, pictured above, are claiming cough syrup led to their client allegedly running over and killing a woman in Springfield, Missouri, in November 2018. The prosecution refutes the arguments based on recorded interviews and witness statements. Greene County Jail

The Associated Press reported that Foster was dragged approximately 60 feet until McKeown crashed into another car during what was rush-hour traffic. Witnesses would not allow McKeown to vacate the scene, waiting for police to arrive to question her.

Foster later died at a hospital.

Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Dane Rennier, according to Yahoo! News, stated on the trial's opening day that on-scene witnesses would provide testimony that would show that McKeown wanted to flee the scene of the incident before police arrived.

Rennier also said that audio recordings of Foster herself, just moments before being hit by McKeown's vehicle and dragged to her eventual death, would be played for the jury.

"When the state's evidence is finished, we will have proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant took the life of Ms. Barbara Foster," Rennier said.

But McKeown's attorney, Jon Van Arkel, argued in his opening statement that his client acted in that manner due to a substance-induced psychosis caused by cough syrup—which he claims she "unwittingly, unknowingly, accidentally consumed...without knowing or realizing what effect it would have on her."

"When you hear all the evidence, the judge will instruct you that you can consider Ms. McKeown is not guilty of the offense either because she suffered from a mental illness or because she didn't have the culpable mental state needed, under the law, to be found guilty of these offenses," Van Arkel said.

KY3 News reported that the defense's medical expert, Dr. Leigh Ann Nelson, testified Wednesday that cough syrup potentially may have impacted McKeown's physical condition during the alleged crime due to her liver being "a poor metabolizer" of the narcotic.

Newsweek reached out to the Greene County Prosecutor's Office for comment on the defense's cough syrup argument. Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, referencing the Missouri Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct, responded that "it would not be appropriate for our office to comment upon the evidence elicited during an ongoing trial."

Stanford Children's Health has reported that teen cough syrup abuse is "on the rise" after alcohol was removed from over-the-counter medicines, including cough syrup. It was replaced by dextromethorphan (DXM), a common ingredient in many cough and cold remedies.

However, some teens have opted to consume extreme levels of the syrup in order to get high, either in powder, capsule or pill forms that can be swallowed or snorted and easily purchased online.

Effects have been compared to PCP and anesthetic ketamine. The trio of dissociative substances as they are known can, at a high dosage level, "give the abuser a feeling of not being in one's own body" and also lead to hallucinations and other effects that can last for up to six hours.

States like Michigan in 2019 banned teenagers from purchasing over-the-counter cough medicine due to the effects of the opioid epidemic.

The term "lean" has become part of the social lexicon, too, as the mix of cough medicine containing codeine and promethazine with soda—also known as "sizzurp"—has had negative effects on musicians.

Some cough syrups decades ago contained heroin.