BOARDMAN- A Salem man was arrested for contaminating the drink of his ex-girlfriend by Boardman police on Saturday.
Ryan M. Keller, 28, of 251 W. 7th St., is being held in Mahoning County jail after being charged with contaminating a substance for human consumption, a first-degree felony. He was also charged with domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor.
During an initial hearing on Tuesday before Judge Joseph M. Houser in Mahoning County Court No. 2 Keller entered no plea on the contaminating charge and cash bond was set at $10,000.
He pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and cash bond was placed at $2,500.
The victim, Amanda L. Riley, 21, resides in Niles.
Boardman police said they were called to the AT&T store at 1393 Boardman-Canfield Road at 4 p.m. Saturday in reference to an employee contaminating another employee's drink with an unknown substance.
Officers responded and spoke to the store manager, Jessica Lukac, who made the call to police. She advised that another employee, Deneen Poulakos, contacted her advising that Keller put an unknown substance in someone's drink as she walked into the break room.
Poulakos advised she saw Keller standing by a Subway drink cup putting a substance from a Visine bottle into the cup.
Upon entering the room, Poulakos had startled Keller and he fumbled to replace the lid on the cup which belonged to Riley, his ex-girlfriend.
Lukac told police that before she had been made aware of the incident by Poulakos, Riley told her that Keller had asked her, "Hey, you don't look so good. Are you OK? Are you felling OK?"
Riley advised that she did not understand why she was being asked those questions.
Keller was in the front sales room and Lukac summoned him to an open conference room where police made contact with him and advised him they were there in reference to a complaint.
Patrolman John Gocala said, "I advised Keller that an employee was concerned that he put some substance from a Visine bottle in someone's drink and if he knew why those accusations were being made?"
Gocala said Keller advised he didn't know what they were talking about.
Gocala asked Keller if he had a bottle of Visine and Keller replied, "Yes, for my contacts."
Keller produced a bottle of Visine and Opti-Free and police asked him again if he was sure he had no knowledge of anyone putting anything in a drink in the break room.
Keller replied, "Well, I put some Visine in somebody's drink as a prank, but I don't know whose drink it was. I didn't think it was a big deal. We play pranks here all the time."
Another officer, Ptl. Phillip Merlo, then referenced the movie "Wedding Crashers," where this same incident happened (Visine drops in a drink), and the victim of the "prank" became violently ill with diarrhea and stomach pain.
Keller advised, "Yeah, I saw that they were sick but it was just a joke."
Police noted a warning on the bottle of Visine: "If ingested, contact a poison control center right away."
The store manager, Lukac, also provided police with information regarding the possible side effects of drinking a liquid contaminated by Visine that she found on the Internet while police were there.
Officer Michael Dado took the two eye drop bottles Keller provided and showed them to Poulakos, who identified the Visine bottle as the one she had seen Keller put into the drink.
During the investigation, Keller sent Riley several text messages stating, "WTF, I'm very sorry do you really want to arrest me? I'm soo (sic) sorry, Amanda, and would give everything to change what I did, and I'm losing my job, Amanda, that (sic) least you could do is let me go w/o being arrested."
Riley provided a copy of these messages to officers and advised she was interested in pursuing charges.
She advised that she did have stomach pain but was not sure whether it was due to nerves or in reference to the drink. She declined any medical attention at the scene.
Another manager, Sean Thompson, arrived and advised officers of a text message Keller sent him while en route to the store stating, "As a practical joke I put Visine in Amanda's cup. I'm being completely honest. It was nothing more. I didn't want to hurt her. I put two drops. I am completely sorry. We're always playing jokes around here. I'm sorry it went this far. Nothing to do w/our break up or anything."
Keller was placed under arrest for contaminating a substance for human consumption. After attempting unsuccessfully to contact an attorney, Keller declined to speak with police any further.
Police said that Thompson advised Keller that he was under non-paid suspension until AT&T could do its own investigation.
A preliminary hearing before Judge Houser was set for 10 a.m. March 23 in County Court No. 2.
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org