Myrtle Beach woman charged in death of over medicated patient, radio personality

A 53-year-old registered nurse in Myrtle Beach is accused in the death of North Myrtle Beach radio personality Bill Norman, who police said was given too much medication while he was being treated at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center after suffering a stroke in October.

Police on Wednesday charged Janet Kupka with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. She has been released on $20,000 bail, according to Myrtle Beach police Capt. David Knipes said.

An investigation into Norman’s death began on Oct. 19 – five days after the 63-year-old’s death – after police received a report from hospital officials that a patient possibly was over medicated.

An arrest affidavit shows that officers interviewed a witness who saw the incident.

According to an incident report, the witness, who was not identified, said that Norman was a patient and receiving 4 mg of morphine every half hour. A quantity of the morphine was stockpiled to make a larger dose. The report said the witness saw Kupka in Norman’s room administering something to him through intravenous therapy.

Kupka told the witness that she had given the victim 20 mg of morphine, which was a dose much higher than what had been prescribed and possibly life-threatening, according to the report. Later the same day, the witness said Kupka took a bottle and tubing of Diprivan, which is a general anesthetic, from another patient’s room and went into Norman’s.

Norman’s health monitors sounded, and the witness told police that Kupka was in his room and said she had given him the Diprivan , according to the report. Norman died a short time later.

The police report showed the incidents occurred between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Oct. 14.

Kupka is now unemployed, according to information on an arrest report. She surrendered to police at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. She refused to comment when reached at home on Thursday.

Norman’s family declined to comment.

Doug White, Grand Strand’s chief executive officer, said he could not comment specifically about the incident, but read a statement:

“Upon report of an allegedly incident in October, we immediately notified all appropriate authorities including the South Carolina Board of Nursing, the DHEC Bureau of Drug Control and the Myrtle Beach Police Department. We have cooperated with any and all law enforcement inquiries and requests and will continue to do so,” White said. “As this is now a pending criminal case, we defer all inquiries to the solicitor office for the 15th Judicial Circuit. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time except to say that we remain committed to providing a high level of patient care.”

According to the S.C. Board of Nursing website, Kupka is in good standing with the board and her license is active until April 30, 2014, according to the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Kupka’s South Carolina nursing license was issued on Oct. 11, 2005.

Kupka previously was previously held a nursing license in New Jersey from Aug. 1, 1981 until it expired on May 31, 2009, according to the N.J. Department of Law and Public Safety Division of Consumer Affairs. Her license there also was in good standing.

Norman was the owner of Norman Communications’ WNMB-AM 900 and co-owner of WVCO-FM 94.9 “The Surf.”

At the time of Norman’s death, Matt Sedota, general manager of Fidelity Broadcasting’s easy listening station simulcast on WEZV-FM 105.9 in Myrtle Beach and WGTN-FM 100.7 in Georgetown, said Fidelity sold WNMB to Norman in 2001.

“Bill was one of those guys who don’t exist anymore,” Sedota said. “He was Mr. Local Radio.”

Sedota said Norman multitasked in all phases of operating a radio station, as a host, producer of commercials, operator of remote broadcasts, and by attending North Myrtle Beach City Council meetings.

“They don’t make them like him anymore,” Sedota said, bringing up how corporate ownership has changed the radio field. “He brought a whole different perspective to North Myrtle Beach. … He lived it and breathed it every day. … I think he loved every minute of it, being there and doing it, and making it happen.”