Merry Kay Protheroe, of Wichita, Kansas, daily drank 10 diet Fresca, artificially sweetened with aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet). On August 31, 2006, Merry's husband, noting her lethargy and confusion, rushed her to an ER.
According to the hospital laboratory report, Merry Kay was in acute renal failure, confused, combatant, vomiting, dehydrated, delirious and diagnosed with severe metabolic acidosis-methanol poisoning.
Merry was put in full restraints because she was pulling out tubes, the catheter, everything connected to her. In her delirium, she kicked a nurse in the face.
Merry believes it was one of the doctors in the ER who suspected she had been poisoned by her husband; this doctor reckoned her husband put antifreeze in his wife's food, for an extended period of time.
Merry began to improve, according to a consultation evaluation by Ahsan Y. Khan, an MD at Via Cristi Regional Medical Center. "Mrs. Protheroe agreed to a mental status examination. The patient denied any suicidal or homicidal thoughts." In the interrogative, Merry was asked if a family member could have poisoned her.
One night, Merry heard police talking outside her hospital room. "A really scary part of this was my family wasn't around on the third detail (at night) when the uniforms came in to check on me to see if I was going to live. If I died, which was certain, I heard them say, they could arrest my dear husband of 35 years and/or my granddaughter, one of my best friends in the world."
After nine-days in the hospital, Merry Kay Protheroe went home. To date, no criminal charges have been pressed against any of her family.
In 1993, the FDA, under the Freedom of Information Act revealed 92 symptoms caused by aspartame; Weakness is No.10, Blood glucose disorders are No. 63, Change in hair or nails is No. 66, Many lumps present is No. 71 and Death is No. 77.
Since Merry has stopped using aspartame, she is stronger, her glucose levels are more stable, her hair is growing thicker, lumps on her arm have dried up and fallen off and she is alive.
Merry Kay survived methanol poisoning but Charles Fleming, 37, in June, 2000 did not.
Like Merry Kay, Charles (Chuck) Fleming was a heavy user of chemically-sweetened cola, drinking, every day, 10 Diet Cokes with aspartame. At night, Chuck switched to bourbon and diet Sprite, also with aspartame.
For those unfamiliar with the methanol (wood alcohol) content of aspartame, it is 10% of the molecule.
The aspartame manufacturers assure 'users' there is more methanol in a glass of tomato juice than in their product. The truth is, the methanol in aspartame is 'free' meaning the methanol is unaccompanied by ethanol, nature's antidote for methanol. In natural food sources of methanol, such as tomato or orange juice, ethanol is found at concentrations of 5 to 500,000 times that of the toxin. The most authoritative information about the methanol in aspartame is from Dr. Woodrow Monte, retired Professor of Food Science.*
The Innocent Woman
Although Diane Fleming passed a polygraph three times with 'flying colors', she was arrested, tried and convicted for 'spiking' her husband's Gatorade with windshield washer fluid, containing methanol. Sentenced to 30 years for murder and 20 years for adulteration, Diane has been imprisoned in the Fluvanna Correctional Center, in Troy, Virginia, for four years.
An NFT1 test(gas chromophotography) or a Raman Microscope test can prove accurately where the methanol in the Gatorade bottles originated. The Chesterfield, VA. police have told Diane's counsel, David B. Hargett, they do not have to release the Gatorade bottles, still in evidence.
What Diane's supporters want to know is: Why won't the Chesterfield, Virginia police department release the evidence?
A year-and-a-half after Diane was convicted, her best friend, Betty Rickmond learned, surfing the Internet, that aspartame contains lethal methanol.
Because of an antiquated law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, after a defendant is convicted, new evidence cannot be used in post conviction appeals to prove innocence. In Diane's case, this means no expert opinion can be brought in to establish the distinct possibility that Chuck Fleming died from aspartame poisoning.
Diane Fleming's appeals for freedom are coming to an end. Diane's writ of habeas corpus (very few cases even get that far) was rejected by the Virginia Circuit Court and the Virginia Supreme Court. If the appeal had been won, Diane would have been granted an evidentiary hearing or a new trial where information to prove her innocence is permitted.
On a personal note, this writer, a supporter of Diane's for more than three years, flew from LA to Richmond for the oral argument to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Prisoners do not attend their hearing appeals, but I was able to meet Diane for the first time, at the jail.
Diane is a very brave, strong woman. She survives "lousy food and not enough of it", standing in "pill line" to get medicine, and "shakedowns" as prison guards go into your room/cell and throw everything out into the hall. Most of all, Diane has lost the pleasure of rearing her daughter, Meagan, now 13 years old.
Diane Fleming's husband, Chuck Fleming became ill after playing basketball on a hot June Sunday afternoon; it was that Sunday he drank his first bottle of Gatorade. He and Diane bought the Gatorade to mix with creatine, a 'muscle-enhancing' supplement Chuck wanted to try. Note, Chuck used the creatine inappropriately by not drinking any water and by using 3 times the recommended amount, which can cause a dangerous 'creatine blast' according to Dr. Terjung, Professor of Physiology at Missouri University.
Chuck told Diane he thought he had 'a little flu bug'; he ate only ice cream for dinner and went to bed early. Not until the next day did Chuck agree to go to the ER where he was diagnosed with the identical symptoms as Merry Kay Protheroe-- acute renal failure, confusion, combatant, vomiting, dehydration, delirium and diagnosed with the same fatal sickness-- severe metabolic acidosis, methanol poisoning.
Important to know is it was Diane who first called the police because one of the doctors at the hospital told her Chuck had died from methanol poisoning. It was Diane who showed the detectives the (sealed) windshield washer fluid on the garage shelf and the Gatorade bottles in the refrigerator, where her then 7-year old daughter had access. Jeffrey, Diane's son was graduating from high school the next Thursday and Diane's parents were driving up from Missouri for the occasion. Diane had just bought Chuck woodworking table to surprise him for Father's Day.
Six years after Chuck's death, five of Diane's closest friends and I listened to counsel, David B. Hargett's 10 minute appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The Court rejected the appeal; a Petition for Rehearing has been filed.
In his latest letter to Diane, Hargett writes: "I feel we have a strong argument, but the Supreme Court rarely changes its mind."
The strongest argument and a primary reason Diane Fleming was wrongly convicted is "prosecutorial misconduct", legally called a "Brady violation."
The Smoking Gun
One can easily see Krystal Kleer windshield washer fluid is blue; when one adds this windshield washer fluid to a lemon-lime Gatorade, the flavor Chuck drank, the liquid turns green and smells bad. An affidavit from Virginia state toxicologist, Joseph J. Saady, swears he found no blue dye in the Gatorade bottles, but he decided not to send the bottles out for further forensic testing. The prosecution hid this exculpatory(proving innocence)evidence from the defense.
Circuit Court Judge Cleo Powell, also the trial judge who heard counsel David B.Hargett argue the habeas the first time around, sided with the prosecution. Powell ruled the windshield washer evidence was not exculpatory because the prosecution, at trial, never argued the windshield washer fluid killed Chuck.
Yet, in the one-day trial, the transcript shows 37 references to the windshield washer fluid and the windshield washer fluid, linked to the Gatorade bottles, is cited 113 times.
In the pending Petition for Rehearing, David B. Hargett informs the Court that Diane Fleming's case is not the first time Diane Fleming's prosecutor, Warren Van Schuch hid evidence. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in VA, admonished Van Schuch "This prosecution team displayed a disconcerting lack of respect for its sole responsibility to ensure 'that justice shall be done', as opposed to merely winning the case."
In another case, prosecutor Von Schuch's misconduct resulted in a reversal. "The Court finds that Van Schuch acted improperly and in violation of prosecutorial obligations."
In a best possible scenario, Diane will be granted an evidentiary hearing or a new trial where experts on methanol poisoning can testify; among them are, endocrinologist, Dr. H.J. Roberts ("Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic"), neurosurgeon, Dr.Russell Blaylock ("Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills"), toxicoligist Dr. Hildegarde Staninger, Dr. Janet Hull ("Sweet Poison") and former Judge Mary Nash Stoddard, consumer advocate.
Most importantly, the Gatorade bottles, still in evidence, must be obtained for testing.
The injustice done to Diane Fleming must be rectified.
Carol Guilford is an LA-based writer and author of "The New Cook's Cookbook", "THE Diet Book", "Carol Guilford's Main Course Cookbook" and "The Easiest Cookbook."