Woman fatally overdoses on eve of OUI trial

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AMESBURY – A local woman scheduled to go on trial Tuesday on her third charge of driving while under the influence of drugs died the night before of an overdose inside her Macy Street apartment, according to Newburyport District Court records.

Norma J. Hutchins, 57, was charged in May 2017 with OUI drugs, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and a marked lanes violation after abruptly stopping her car near Route 110 Liquors.

But the night before she was to appear in court with her attorney John Bjorlie, Hutchins was found by friends unconscious and not breathing in her bathroom. A police report indicates the officer believes the overdose was a result of heroin or fentanyl.

According to a police report, Amesbury police officers Shawn O’Brien and A.J Pesci, along with Amesbury paramedics responded to the Sandalwood Pointe complex around 5:05 p.m. Monday.

When they arrived they found a woman performing CPR on Hutchins as she lay on her back on the bathroom floor. Amesbury firefighters took over resuscitation efforts but soon pronounced Hutchins dead, according to O’Brien’s report.

The woman performing CPR arrived at Hutchins’ apartment a few minutes earlier to check on her. When the friend couldn’t get inside the locked apartment she contacted a condominium trustee who opened the door. He and the friend found Hutchins hunched over in the bathroom and not breathing.

Amesbury police Detective Sean Leary and a state trooper from the Crime Prevention and Control unit were called to the scene to investigate. It didn’t take long for Leary to find white powder on a nightstand next to Hutchins’ bed along with a cut straw next to it.

“Two corner baggies of a white powder substance I believe to be heroin/fentanyl were located in the top nightstand drawer,” O’Brien wrote in his report.

Word of Hutchins’ death quickly spread within a Newburyport District Court room Tuesday morning after Bjorlie told law enforcement officials and other defense attorneys of his former client’s fate.

A few minutes later, Hutchins’ name was called by the court clerk and the charges formally dismissed after Judge Peter Doyle was informed of her death.

In regard to the driving under the influence charge, on May 4, 2017, around 2 p.m. a witness saw Hutchins driving erratically on Route 110 before she pulled the car onto a curb near Route 110 Liquors. When Amesbury police Officer Craig Lesage arrived, Hutchins was nodding off, the car was still in drive but her foot was off the accelerator.

Lesage quickly determined Hutchins was under the influence while behind the wheel. She was so confused that she had trouble untangling herself from her seat belt and then nearly fell on the ground. Lesage later found a prescription pill bottle on the front passenger seat containing a narcotic pain reliever, according to his report.