Oklahoma Railroad

Accused of killing a cop's son, Emily Dowdy learns the hard way that in Oklahoma City justice isn't blind. It works for the prosecution.

An intriguing theory, but Williams had no solid evidence to back up Frye's conclusion. A test of Dowdy's blood drawn at 5:30 a.m. tested negative for GHB.

That isn't surprising. Found in the body in minute amounts, gamma hydroxybutyrate can disappear from blood in as soon as two hours and from urine in six to 12. (No sample of Dowdy's urine had been saved.)

Developed as an anesthetic in France during the '60s, GHB was deemed too unpredictable for surgical use, its range of dose too narrow, its side effects too bizarre. A bottle cap of GHB can trigger euphoria, sexual stimulation, flailing movements of arms and legs, agitation and amnesia. (See "Knocked Out," December 19, 2002.)

The location of the head-on collision at Highway 240 
and Pole Road.
The location of the head-on collision at Highway 240 and Pole Road.
Ryan "Bug" Brewer, shown here in high school, died when 
his car was crushed.
Ryan "Bug" Brewer, shown here in high school, died when his car was crushed.

Alcohol magnifies its effects.

Its rapid onset and amnesia make GHB a perfect tool for sexual predators: An odorless clear liquid, GHB has a salty taste that's easy to disguise in a cocktail or liqueur, and it's easy to dose a drink with a quick squeeze from a plastic bottle. Victims can appear to interact with their attackers, talk, even drive, but they have no awareness of what they are doing.

At the accident scene, Dowdy's behavior had included gasping for breath, slurred speech and unconsciousness alternating with agitation. Her neurosurgeon would testify that her symptoms were consistent with GHB.

Though GHB now is illegal, it is easy to make using recipes found on the Internet. By the time rape victims figure out what happened--if they do--it's too late to find evidence of the drug, though prosecutors in San Diego and Dallas have managed to convict GHB predators without positive toxicological results.

The drug emerged as a problem in Oklahoma as early as late 1995, when six people overdosed on GHB in the space of a few months. Keith Allen, owner of Brothers, a campus hangout near OU where Dowdy later worked, heard about GHB being used for sexual assaults in the late '90s.

"It was going on here at some bars [during that period]," Allen says. A few bartenders and doormen were using it on college girls in Norman. "I think it happens more than anyone realizes." One of his current waitresses told the Observer she was drugged at an OKC bar last summer. Her friends prevented three guys from hustling her out of the club.

Calls about GHB to Oklahoma County's poison control peaked at 27 in 1999, but virtually no investigators were trained to recognize its symptoms.

Highway patrol Trooper David King knew nothing about the drug when he arrived at the accident and tried to save Brewer's life. King saw a drunk girl and a dead boy and drew the logical conclusion.

King got to the ER at 7 a.m. Dowdy reeked of alcohol. He had already ordered a blood test. Without telling Dowdy she was under investigation for a fatality accident, King asked where she had been and how much she had had to drink. Dowdy answered in a murmur: She'd been with Katie Hillin. They went to the Crosswinds. She drank two Cape Cods. Hillin got sick. She didn't remember what happened after that.

He read Dowdy her rights and then repeated the questions. Dowdy waived her rights, King said, and gave the same answers. (The prosecutor would later make a big deal out of this severely injured, mentally incapacitated woman simply answering King's questions instead of volunteering information, insinuating that was a sign of guilt.)

King handed an arrest warrant to Dowdy's housemate Cari Harris. Notified by the hospital, Harris had called Dowdy's boss Dan Gallant; both had arrived before King, and neither believes she had the ability to understand what was going on.

Dowdy doesn't remember speaking to King, Harris or Gallant in the ER. Her first memory was waking up on her back with her head immobilized in a "halo" device and in excruciating pain. She had what's known as a "hangman's fracture" of the neck; her neurosurgeon wasn't sure Dowdy would survive the operation.

For days Dowdy didn't know that someone had been killed in the collision. On May 30, Dowdy's mother told her about Brewer's death. She had to call the nurse for medication to calm down her distraught daughter.

After rehabilitation, Dowdy returned that fall to OU and her job at the postal training center. She was determined to graduate, but her right arm was damaged, making drawing and lifting painful. At work, Gallant says, "she was not the same girl."

Prohibited from drinking or driving, Dowdy had to rely on friends to get to work. After a few months, she took the job at Brothers so she could walk to her classes and apartment; she didn't tell her boss about the case or her disability. Allen found out about it when King came into Brothers and saw her. Dowdy's work "deteriorated," Allen says, and she left to take another restaurant job.

In March 2000, Dowdy was working a second job in the school gym when she met Jon Mulac, a former OU football player pursuing a graduate degree. She told Mulac everything.

"Emily was beautiful, very intelligent, very quick-witted, very goal-oriented," Mulac says. They both graduated from OU in June 2000. "I thought she'd be worth sticking by her side. She was scared, but she was always confident that the facts would come out on this GHB thing and that the jury would see that."

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