The Associated Press State & Local Wire

September 3, 1999, Friday, BC cycle

Reding fails to show for arraignment; warrant issued

BYLINE: By MARY PEREA, Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 625 words


An arrest warrant was issued Friday for a retired Michigan psychiatrist and associate of Jack Kevorkian who is charged with murder in New Mexico.
Georges Reding, 74, of Galesburg, Mich., failed to appear at his arraignment here before state District Judge Louis P. McDonald and the judge immediately issued a warrant for his arrest. No attorney appeared on Reding’s behalf, either.
Reding is accused of giving a drug overdose to a Rio Rancho woman who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for 20 years.
Geoffrey Fieger, who represented Kevorkian and whose firm had appeared for Reding in the past, said he had no idea where Reding was or why he did not appear in court.
“We informed the prosecutor’s office that we have no responsibility for him,” Fieger said.
McDonald issued a warrant for Reding’s arrest with no possibility of bail. District Attorney Mike Runnels said the warrant was sent to Michigan and the National Crime Information Center.
New Mexico authorities will do everything in their power to see Reding faces trial here, Runnels said.
“The simplest course of action for the defendant is to appear before a New Mexico judge and ask for reasonable conditions of release,” Runnels said outside court. “Depending on what happens, we’ll see how reasonable we’re willing to be.”
An autopsy showed Donna Brennan, 54, of Rio Rancho, died in August 1998 from a lethal dose of pentobarbital, a sedative. Police at first thought she died of natural causes, but her family urged police to investigate, and the drug turned up in the autopsy.
Telephone and credit card records, along with a witness, placed Reding at Brennan’s house around the time of her death, authorities said.
Representatives of groups both for and against assisted suicide attended the aborted arraignment.
Kate Watson of New Mexico Death with Dignity said she had spoken to Reding’s staff, who told her he was out of the country.
Jim Parker of Santa Fe, representing a group called Not Dead Yet, said he was not surprised Reding didn’t show up. The group opposes assisted suicide for people with disabilities.
“They come under the dark of night,” he said of people who assist with such suicides.
Parker said he hopes “that we see him (Reding) in handcuffs and carried off to jail.”
Runnels was not willing to speculate on Reding’s whereabouts but said nothing led him to believe Reding, who was born in Belgium, was out of the country.
Assisted suicide is a felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. But a Sandoval County grand jury on Aug. 19 chose to indict Reding on charges of first-degree murder, practicing medicine without a license, trafficking in a controlled substance and evidence tampering.
Reding’s association with Kevorkian became public in July 1996, when Fieger introduced him at a meeting of the National Press Club, describing the connection as a fellowship.
Reding told the crowd he had witnessed five assisted suicides and would continue to help Kevorkian judge the mental status of people who sought his help in dying. He said he joined Kevorkian because he was “embarrassed by the cowardice of my profession” in not supporting patients who seek suicide.
In 1996, Reding and Kevorkian were charged in connection with three assisted suicides in Oakland County, Mich. A prosecutor later dropped all the charges for insufficient evidence.
About two years later, Reding and Kevorkian were arrested on charges they resisted arrest and interfered with police while dropping a body off at a Royal Oak, Mich., hospital. Reding was acquitted; Kevorkian was convicted.
Kevorkian now is serving a 10- to 25-year sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a Lou Gehrig’s disease patient.