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'All my red flags went up': Rocky River woman believes she was targeted at Denver Airport on trip home

She believes she was drugged, toxicology report comes back positive for prescription she doesn't take
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Posted at 11:35 AM, Jan 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 14:39:56-05

DENVER — Earlier this month, a Rocky River woman was killing time during a layover at the Denver Airport in the last leg of her overseas work trip.

Madison Herman did what many do, had a drink before her flight home on Jan. 6. Instead of a chance to relax and unwind, the drink was the start of a nightmare.

After 30 hours of overseas travel for work, she was exhausted. Herman went to the bar near her gate, asked the man sitting at the bar if she could sit near him, and ordered a glass of wine. She said the bartender told her she looked like she needed a topper. So, he poured more from a different bottle.

"I didn’t pay attention to if the original bottle he poured from was completely empty or if he just set it somewhere else, but the topper he got was from a different bottle behind the bar and that bottle was already opened. It was just a little extra ounce that he had poured on and he had slid it to me and he said, 'There you go," Herman said.

She had her glass of wine, talked on the phone to her mom and husband, Mike Herman, and had her United Airlines boarding pass out, making it clear she was on her way to Cleveland. She said shortly after she finished her drink, she started to feel strange.

"I was talking to Mike and I was actually like, 'Oh my god,' I just got extremely nauseous," she said. "It came out of nowhere and I said, 'I think I'm going to throw up.'"

Herman went to the bathroom where she said she encountered a woman.

"She [the woman] had turned around when we were halfway back in the stalls and she had looked at me and said, 'I'm so sorry,'" Herman said.

At first, Herman didn't think twice about it, she thought maybe the woman was referring to Herman's crutches, but then she heard the woman talking to a man on the phone.

"It was a guy on the other line who said, 'Well this is the first time we've done this that we've had someone throw up,' at that point all my red flags went up," she said. "My crutches make clicking sounds so I can’t sneak up on anyone, so when I was leaving I was going past her stall and the girl on the phone or the guy on the phone said 'we hear her coming.'"

Herman immediately went to her gate and onto her flight. She was sat in the first row, with a man beside her and two other men behind her.

Then, the woman from the bathroom boarded the flight.

"I was fine at this point, comfortable, and then I saw the girl from the bathroom board and I just got a pit in my stomach and she looked at the guys and gave a smile and a head nod," Herman said.

Herman said she felt trapped and as if the men were watching her.

During this time, she was in contact with her husband and mother who were back home in Cleveland. They arranged for Cleveland Police to meet her when she landed.

Throughout her flight, she began to feel even more off.

"My face felt super droopy, my legs felt super heavy but then my legs started to go in muscle spasms," she said.

Herman alerted the flight attendant who then moved her seat and told the captain.

Once the plane landed Cleveland police escorted her out to her family, but Herman is unsure of where the group went.

Instead of a trip home, Herman went to the emergency room to ensure everything was okay.

"That is where my urine toxicology came back positive for benzos," she said. "My discharge instructions from the hospital was 'Benzodiazepine overdose.' I know what happened but I needed that confirmation and validation."

Benzos, short for Benzodiazepine, is a drug used for anxiety. However, this is a drug that Herman says she is not prescribed. The side effects for Benzodiazepine are drowsiness, light-headedness, confusion, slurred speech and muscle weakness.

She believes it was a human trafficking attempt. News 5 does not have clear confirmation as to what happened, but we have reached out to law enforcement in Denver and Cleveland.

"I was a perfect target," said Herman. "I was exhausted, emotional, on crutches, paying attention to nothing around me. But I survived and I want to use my story to help others."

A spokesperson from United Airlines said in a statement they are working with law enforcement on this matter and that the safety of their customers is a top priority.

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