SALT LAKE CITY -- A hearing is under way for a Cottonwood Heights physician accused of manslaughter in the death of her husband, who apparently drank himself to death while also ingesting a detox drug.
However, Dr. Ina Amber's attorneys argue she is the real victim in this case.
A preliminary hearing began in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court on Wednesday for Dr. Amber, where a judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to make her stand trial. She's facing felony charges of manslaughter and abuse of a disabled or elder adult in connection with the death of her husband, Rustin James Orr. Dr. Amber is accused of supplying drugs and alcohol to him, contributing to his death at their home in 2014.
Charging documents stated the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be the combination of alcohol and the detox medicine, Librium, both of which were provided to Orr by his wife. Prosecutors allege in the weeks prior to his death, Orr depended on others to care for all his basic needs.
But Dr. Amber's defense argues that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her late husband and had repeatedly tried to wean him away from alcohol. Records show he had a history of arrests for substance abuse and disorderly conduct-related charges.
Testimony on Wednesday focused on Orr's alcoholism and his death. Former Cottonwood Heights Police detective James Woods spoke about responding to his death. Dr. Amber called police to report her husband's death. Woods said he found Orr dead in a chair in a bedroom, some soup that was still warm nearby with a bottle of Gatorade that had alcohol mixed in and prescription medication nearby. At the edge of the bed was a partially consumed 30-pack of beer.
There were a number of prescription drugs given to Orr, Woods testified, even though he did not have medical insurance.
The defense suggested Orr drank himself to death and had been an alcoholic since age 14. He'd been drinking vodka and beer and had a .42 blood alcohol content level the night he died, Dr. Amber's attorney, Mark Moffat, got out of testimony from Woods.
"Forty years that Mr. Orr was an alcoholic, correct?" Moffat asked.
"His whole life he fought that illness," Woods replied.
"She indicated to you he’d relapsed, correct?" Moffat said, adding that the doctor was trying to cut her husband's alcohol consumption levels.
Moffat also brought up prior police reports where Dr. Amber called fearful of her husband's violence whenever she tried to take his alcohol away. The defense tried to introduce a police report where Orr was accused of breaking down a door with an axe as she hid from him, and another instance where Orr was accused of pulling a shotgun on a houseguest.
"He sat outside her room with an axe!" Moffat told the court, arguing she was a victim of an abusive relationship.
Prosecutors played video and audio recorded by a friend of Orr's, showing him in the depths of alcoholism as he slurring his speech and talked about taking too many medications.
"Tell me why you need this much medication?" Orr's friend, Lex Madsen, said on one recording.
"Because if I don’t take it, I will drink. Drinking is way worse than those damn pills," Orr responded.
Madsen testified he believed Dr. Amber had responsibility for his death.
"She was giving him the pills and alcohol and that’s what ended up killing him. He died because of drugs and alcohol," he claimed.
Dr. Amber's preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume on Friday.