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18-year-old charged with murder after Park Rapids teen dies from drug overdose

Adam Budge

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. - What began as a drug-filled night for five teenage friends here has now led to a murder charge for one and the death of another from what appears to be an overdose.

On Wednesday, Polk County prosecutors charged Adam Taft Budge, an 18-year-old from East Grand Forks, with murder in the third degree, second-degree manslaughter, selling a controlled substance to a juvenile and selling a controlled substance.

Taft said he had meant to buy some marijuana when he went to visit his dealer a couple of weeks ago, but he ended up paying $100 for a white powder he thought was an extract of hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to the court complaint filed Wednesday.

Police say it was that white powder that killed his friend Elijah Stai, a 17-year-old from Park Rapids, Minn., six days ago.

Witnesses told police Stai was "shaking, growling, foaming at the mouth" and he "started to smash his head against the ground," acting as if "possessed."

Budge declared that it was just a "bad trip," and he had seen it before. In fact, he had overdosed in April and had to be taken to Altru Hospital, the complaint said.

Stai ultimately passed out, never to wake again. He was taken off life support at 9:05 p.m. Friday at the same hospital.

If Budge is convicted of murder, the most serious charge, he could face up to 25 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

The tragic series of events started the night of June 12, just before 10 p.m.

Budge, Stai and his foster brother Justin Rippentrop were at Budge's home, mixing the white powder with melted chocolate, according to the complaint. Later, they would eat the drug-laced candy before going out to pick up two girls police identified as "C.K." and "J.E.S." because they are minors. J.E.S. was identified as Budge's girlfriend.

Budge's father, Richard Taft Budge II, was at home at the time. After the three teens left, his son called and asked him to let J.E.S.'s mother, Peggy Stai, know that he would be home and that the five could hang out there. The elder Budge did so.

In the meantime, the complaint said, the teens had gone to McDonald's, where Stai said he didn't feel good. By the time they got their food and got home at around 11 p.m., Stai was "freaking out."

This was when he began acting as if possessed. His breathing and heart rate were "extremely fast." The boys eventually took him to a bed. Budge placed a wet towel to cool him down.

Richard Budge told police that, upon returning, his son and Rippentrop told him that Stai was on a "bad trip" and that he just needed a place to "come down."

After checking on Stai several times, he sent Peggy Stai a text message telling her that Stai was very tense and hyperventilating at times but then calmed down. He mentioned C.K. may have ingested the drug as well. Rippentrop later said the girls didn't consume the drug.

Around 11:45 p.m., Peggy Stai replied to the text message, saying she was coming to pick up the two girls. Richard Budge checked on Elijah Stai again and found him in a catatonic state. Using his iPad, Budge looked up information about mushroom overdoses. He figured it was not fatal but wanted to take Stai to the hospital.

Adam Budge said he was only having a "bad trip" and would sleep it off, so the two left the room; he would check in on Stai occasionally. Richard Budge then went to bed.

By around 1:30 a.m., Adam Budge realized Stai was no longer breathing. Soon Richard Budge had called 911 and, along with his son, peformed CPR on Stai while Rippentrop waited in the driveway.

Police recovered a small baggie containing chocolate from Stai's pocket and Adam Budge gave police an empty baggie labeled "25iNBOMe," which were sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Forensic scientist Amy Granlund identified that the psychedelic substance was indeed "25i-NBMOe," otherwise known as 2C-I.

In the bedroom where Stai was, police found a marijuana one-hitter, an empty bottle of malt liqor, an empty bottle of rum and two prescription pill bottles with J.E.S.'s name on them.

Prosecutors charged Budge with third-degree murder because he caused Stai's death, though he did not intend to, by giving him a drug, according to the complaint.

He is charged with second-degree manslaughter because "he created an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chance of causing death or great bodily harm to another," the complaint said. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The charge of selling a controlled substance to a juvenile carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of selling a controlled substance carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.