Woman involved in fatal accident charged with obtaining prescription drugs illegally

A Florida woman who struck and killed a Waterford native who was riding her bicycle on the Sanibel Causeway last year was arrested Wednesday after authorities in that state accused her of "doctor shopping" in order to obtain prescription drugs illegally.

Theresa Lynn Shirley, 48, of Lee County, Fla., was charged with 12 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and withholding information from a practitioner.

Last year, the Florida state's attorney decided that it did not have enough evidence to pursue criminal charges in the death of Tracey Kleinpell. Instead, Shirley was given a traffic ticket for failure to drive within a single lane in connection with the accident.

In connection with Wednesday's arrest, Shirley is accused of obtaining more than 10,000 oxycodone tablets illegally from medical facilities in Lee County and Broward County, Fla., over a 17-month period — before and after Kleinpell's death — according to a press release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It was during the investigation into Kleinpell's death that authorities discovered that Shirley was obtaining the drugs illegally, the press release said. Authorities said between June 2010 and November 2011, Shirley obtained 10,752 oxycodone tablets and 1,100 hydrocodone tablets.

Kleinpell was riding a bike on the causeway's shoulder toward Sanibel Island with her husband when a truck heading in the opposite direction drifted across the lane and hit her.

The impact sent Kleinpell over the waist-high guardrails and into San Carlos Bay, police said. Passing boaters pulled Kleinpell aboard and brought her to shore, where they performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Kleinpell was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities said blood was taken from Shirley at the scene of the crash, and while prescription drugs were found in her system, they did not rise to a level that would have impaired her driving.

Kleinpell's sister, Tina Andrews of Waterford, said the family is relieved that her sister is finally getting some justice.

"My first reaction was just tears," Andrews said. "It was a huge cloud hanging over our head. She is finally off the road. I believe that she would have eventually hurt someone else."

i.larraneta@theday.com

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