Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

December 24, 2013

Pair arrested for ‘True Life’ behavior

Investigation launched after program airs on MTV

GRAYSON — Kentucky State Police last week arrested a man and woman on charges stemming from criminal behavior depicted in an episode of a documentary television series filmed in Carter County.

Cortney J. Howard, 26, of Grayson, and David R. Nickell, 33, of Sandy Hook, were charged as the result of their participation in an episode of the MTV “True Life” series titled “I’m Addicted to Pills.” 

The program aired on Dec. 9. It drew the scrutiny of Carter County Attorney Patrick Flannery, who said he watched it and “reported what I saw to the appropriate authorities.” The KSP launched an investigation that culminated with Howard’s and Nickell’s arrests on Friday.

The KSP said it was advised by Flannery that the show’s cameras had captured “numerous violations of law,” including drug use and trafficking and placing children in “unsfe positions.”

Flannery said he was particularly disturbed by the portions of the program that depicted Howard engaging in drug-related behavior in the presence of her 5-year-old son.

“It is important to note that all citizens have a duty under Kentucky law to report the dependency, neglect or abuse of a minor to law enforcement or to social services,” he said.

Howard was charged with first-degree drug possession, endangering the welfare of a minor and felony theft. Nickell, identified on the show as Howard’s former boyfriend, was charged with first-degree drug trafficking. Both were lodged in the Carter County Detention Center. Nickell remained in custody on Monday, but Howard wasn’t listed on the jail’s online inmate roster.

Howard was one of two addicts profiled on the program. The other was “Dan,” a 29-year-old from Hollywood, Fla.

The show depicts Howard buying and using pills and stealing items from her mother that she trades for drugs. At one point, the program’s cameras follow along as Howard and Nickell take Howard’s son along on a drug buy.

“I know I shouldn’t take (the boy) along, but I have no one to watch him,” Howard says.

Later, Howard is shown snorting a crushed pill off the hood of Nickell’s car while her son plays in the background. Howard admits she “crossed a line I never thought I’d cross” by using drugs in her son’s presence.

Howard also is seen showing up late to her son’s birthday party because she and Nickell are out trying to score pills, and swallowing a handful of pills at an outdoor party after police show up. She later tells producers she also drank alcohol at the party and woke up thinking, “Wow! I could’ve OD’d last night.”

Howard also explains she began using drugs as a teenager and quit for two years after her sister died from taking “a deadly combination” of pills. However, she says she began using again after she and her husband divorced and she and her son moved back in with her mother.

Near the end of the show, Howard is seen entering an Ashland Suboxone clinic and speaking to a counselor, telling him the Suboxone, a drug commonly used in the treatment of opiate addiction, has eliminated her cravings for pills.

An epilogue at the conclusion of Howard’s portion of the program states she continues to take Suboxone, hasn’t gotten high on pills for two months and is planning to find a place to live on her own with her son as soon as she finds steady employment.

“True Life” has been airing on MTV since March 1998. Each episode follows a particular topic. The show is created by having camera crews follow the subjects through certains part of their lives. The program has covered more than 140 topics and has won a number of awards.

The “I’m Addicted to Pills” episode may be viewed at mtv.com/shows/truelife/video.jhtml?filter=fulleps.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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