Monday, December 23, 2013
Second suspect headed to trial in drug delivery death
Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Rhiannon Radetzky allegedly told police that she bought the heroin believed to have killed her friend. But does it make her criminally responsible for his overdose death?
That was the central argument before Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone on Wednesday at the preliminary hearing for the 22-year-old Bensalem resident, one of the first local prosecutions under an enhanced law for drug delivery deaths.
This is the second Bensalem case involving drug delivery resulting in death that will be heard in Bucks County Court. Nicole Marie Lavery, 39, is awaiting trial in connection with a separate heroin overdose death that also occurred Sept 1.
Bensalem police found Francisco Lopez, 23, dead on the master bedroom floor of Radetzky’s Allison Court home on Sept. 1. A subsequent police investigation revealed that Radetzky and Lopez had snorted heroin the night before.
Bensalem Detective Michael Moretti testified Radetzky admitted that the night before Lopez died, she bought four bags of heroin for $40 from her dealer in Philadelphia and shared the drug with her friend.
“She said she set up the drug deal,” Moretti testified.
Radetzky said that she and Lopez went to sleep about 2 a.m. and when she woke up shortly before 7:30 a.m. she found Lopez on his back, Moretti testified. Radetzky thought that Lopez “just had to sleep it off” so she put a blanket over him and a pillow under his head, he added.
Shortly after 10 a.m. Radetzky’s grandfather came to the house, found Lopez, and he called 911, police said.
The coroner’s autopsy report introduced into evidence Wednesday lists Lopez’s cause of death as adverse effect of drugs, but defense attorney Michael Parlow argued that the report was inconsistent since it also stated that drugs “may” have led to Lopez’s death.
In addition to heroin, the autopsy report said benzodiazepines were found in his system, Parlow said. The prescription drug is used to treat anxiety and insomnia; it is also used as a cutting agent in heroin.
“When someone says ‘may’ it could go one way or another,” Parlow said.
Parlow added that prosecutors failed to show that the two bags of heroin bought by Lopez were the ones that resulted in the fatal overdose, noting the coroner’s report didn’t provide a time of death.
“We just have the coroner saying a death occurred because of a drug overdose,” he added. “Where is the evidence that those two bags cause the death?”
Additionally Parlow argued his client should not be held responsible for Lopez’s death since he freely chose to participate in the drug deal — by driving Radetzky to Philadelphia — and then ingested the two bags of heroin she gave him.
The intention of the enhanced law was to target drug dealers, not users, Parlow added.
The July 2011 change in the state’s crime code increased the grading for drug delivery resulting in death from a third-degree to a first-degree felony. It also doubled the maximum prison sentence from 20 to 40 years and made it easier to prosecute cases.
Previously, the law required that prosecutors prove a defendant showed “malice” — meaning the person acted with extreme disregard for human life — to get a conviction on the charge. Now prosecutors have only to prove a defendant delivered the drug and that a death resulted from that drug.
But prosecutor Ryan Hyde countered that what happened the night of Lopez’s death was not a simple “puff, puff, pass” situation, but that Radetzky made a conscious choice to seek out her drug dealer and buy heroin.
“But for her actions, he wouldn’t have drugs that evening,” Hyde said.