Dealer gets 20 years in heroin case

WARREN – A judge called a Youngstown heroin dealer ”every parent’s worst nightmare” before handing him consecutive sentences and a 20-year prison term for supplying the drugs that killed a 17-year-old teenage girl who overdosed on her birthday last year.

”You are a drug dealer putting the poison of heroin into the hands of juveniles in our community, and you act like you did nothing wrong,” Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice told James Patterson, who was convicted by a jury last week on a series of charges including reckless homicide, corrupting another with drugs, tampering with evidence and trafficking in heroin.

Patterson, 28, said he was sorry. ”I’m sorry to the victim and the family. I didn’t even know her. I wouldn’t wish death on no one.”

Patterson’s attorney, James Lanzo, also said his client never intended to kill anyone and asked for a minimum sentence. He reminded that testimony at trial indicated that the victim, Christine Sheesley, wanted to inject heroin on her own.

But Rice told Patterson that he had not accepted moral or legal responsibility for his actions.

He ran the 20-year prison sentence consecutive to any other cases that Patterson has pending in other courts.

Assistant county prosecutor Charles Morrow called Patterson a ”career criminal” who has a record dating back to age 12. At age 18, he was convicted of rape, and while awaiting sentencing in that case assaulted an inmate in the Mahoning County Jail.

Due to a sentencing error, Patterson was never placed on parole and was placed on probation for possessing criminal tools, he said.

Patterson then accumulated other possession and trafficking heroin or cocaine charges and was out on bond for those when he delivered the lethal dose of heroin to the apartment of co-defendant in the case, 20-year-old Tyler Stevens, who is due to be sentenced on a charge of involuntary manslaughter June 3.

Stevens, who testified against Patterson, arranged to buy $50 worth of heroin from Patterson and then injected the drug with his Facebook friend Sheesley, who was celebrating her 17th birthday that day, April 6, 2012, at Steven’s Park Avenue apartment.

Sheesley passed out and became unresponsive for most of the night. Although she was breathing for hours, she was found dead the next morning when police were finally called by Stevens, who held off calling authorities at first since several people advised him that the girl would recover with a little rest or perhaps a cold shower.

Rice called Stevens a ”drug dealer and a dropout, unemployed, loser drug addict with no morals.”

”Not a single anonymous phone call for help, not a drop off at the hospital parking lot, nothing. There is no excuse for any of the lack of morals of all those involved the night of her death,” Rice said.

”You chose to deliver the drugs that killed her and not only did you do that, you came back to only say let her sleep it off. Well guess what? She didn’t sleep it off. She is now sleeping forever,” said Sheesley’s cousin Gerri Wagner, who read an impact statement written by Sheesley’s mother Judee.