Woman died from fentanyl overdose while at Riverside County sobering center, according to lawsuit

Melissa Bauman, left, died from a fentanyl overdose at a Riverside County sobering center.
(Courtesty of Karri Ryder)

Melissa Bauman, who had grappled with drug addiction for years, was ready to get clean when she called her mother for help last summer.

Karri Ryder said her 24-year-old daughter had started using fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid.

The two agreed that Bauman should get help at a sobering center.

A few days after Bauman checked into a Riverside County rehab center, Ryder learned her daughter was found dead in her dorm room. Bauman died from an apparent overdose, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the facility on Wednesday.

“I dropped her off on Saturday evening. I saw her Sunday and Monday,” Ryder said. “Then she was gone early Tuesday morning.”

Bauman was sleepy the last time they saw each other but she gave her mom a kiss on her cheek, Ryder said. Before they parted, Bauman and Ryder held two parts of a plush heart her mother had brought her.

“I would hold one half and she would hold the other,” Ryder said. “She held it and smiled. I told her I love her and I gave her a kiss. I told her, ‘Make good choices.’ And then I left.”

That was the last time she saw her daughter alive.

Ryder claims the operators at the Arlington Recovery Community and Sobering Center falsified logs to make it seem that the staff regularly checked in on Bauman while she was a patient.


MFI Recovery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bauman had a long history of using methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl, but was clean for a short time before she relapsed. Her family placed Bauman in the custodial care of MFI Recovery, the operators at the sobering center, the lawsuit said.

Industry standards for a sobering center require staff to check on a patient like Bauman every 30 minutes to make sure she’s in stable condition, according to the complaint. Those check-ins were recorded in a staff observation log and provided to investigators after Bauman’s death. There was at least one entry that showed staff were 20 minutes late for a checkup, the complaint said.

A detective with the Riverside Police Department reviewed surveillance footage of Bauman’s room and it showed that staff did not check on her as recorded in the logs. The logs claimed that staff checked on her at 3:38 a.m. and 4:59 a.m., but the video surveillance showed that was not true, according to the complaint.

Bauman was found dead shortly before 6 a.m. The county coroner said Bauman died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

Ryder claims the observation logs were modified two months after Bauman’s death. She filed her complaint on behalf of her daughter against MFI Recovery Center and Riverside County for claims of abuse and negligence.

The family’s attorney, Elan Zekster, said the county is named in the lawsuit, because they were aware of numerous complaints made by other individuals who received care at the facility.


Riverside County ended its contract with MFI Recovery in December, just as the California Department of Health Care Services closed a portion of the center that operated the residential treatment program. The Arlington Recovery Community and Sobering Center is listed as having a temporary suspension status.