Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FARMINGTON — Four people convicted of drug charges connected to a birthday party where a Farmington woman overdosed and died were sentenced to prison Tuesday.
Three of the defendants in Franklin County Court were convicted of furnishing the morphine that Marilyn Rider, 52, took, and the fourth defendant was convicted of selling pills from her morphine prescription.
The November 2012 birthday party was for Roy Gordon, 43, who was sentenced by Justice Michaela Murphy to serve two years of a four-year prison sentence and two years’ probation and to pay a $400 fine.
Roy Gordon’s son, Seth Gordon, 23, who was also at the party, received the same sentence as his father.
The other person at the party, Eric Barnes, 28, was sentenced to serve 15 months of a 40-month prison sentence and two years’ probation and to pay a $400 fine. Murphy commended Barnes for what appeared to be a sincere attempt on his part to recover from his drug addiction since his arrest.
The supplier of the morphine, Terry Oliver, 54, received the longest sentence. She was ordered to serve two years of a seven-year prison sentence and to pay $2,500 in fines because she profited from the drug sales.
In March, the only other person charged in the case, Scott Kidder, 32, was sentenced to three years in prison, with the entire sentence suspended, and two years of probation as part of a plea, which he will serve after finishing a two-year prison sentence for a probation violation for a prior conviction.
According to police, Kidder worked as a go-between and helped buy the morphine from Oliver.
The defendants’ sentencing hearing lasted two days, with both sides calling medical experts to testify.
The defense questioned whether it could be proved that Rider died from an overdose at all, or whether it could have been from other causes.
Rider was a sick woman suffering from a long list of chronic respiratory diseases, according to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum. He said the main negative effect of morphine is that it slows breathing and that probably aggravated her already compromised system and killed her.
The defense witness, Dr. John Daniels, who has worked in pathology and law and as a medical examiner, criticized the absence of an autopsy on Rider’s remains and what he considered poor testing in determining the morphine content of Rider’s blood.
Rider’s morphine content was 96 nanograms per milliliter of blood, which both medical experts said is within a range that could be given as a prescription for someone with a built-up tolerance, but also could be enough for a fatal reaction.
Daniels, however, said that the measurement was unreliable and toxicity could have been lower because a blood sample was taken from only one place. He said after death, blood content can change because reservoirs of the substance can be released from other parts of the body. The best way to get a true reading, he said, is to take multiple samples from different areas.
Murphy said the defendants were not charged with causing Rider’s death, but court precedent still allowed her to consider the uncharged conduct when considering sentencing.
Murphy agreed with Flomenbaum’s assessment, citing that Daniels was not given the police report that detailed Rider fading from consciousness as she continued to take morphine.
Other details she considered when sentencing included testimony from more than one witness that Rider declined to get medical help and declined to stop taking injections of the dissolved morphine pills, Murphy said.
She said she was struck by the fact that the defendants were taking morphine while Rider’s 11-year-old son was present. According to police, those at the party ignored her son when he begged for someone to help his mother, and the defendants would not let him call for help after she died until they hid evidence of their drug use.
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