Overdose case goes to jury

WARREN – Jurors were continuing their deliberations this morning in the case of the Youngstown man who faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a teenage girl from Girard who died of a heroin overdose last spring.

”He put the ball in motion. He’s the reason she is dead,” said assistant county prosecutor Charles Morrow, stressing how James Patterson delivered $50 worth of heroin to the Girard apartment of co-defendant Tyler Stevens, 20, a high school dropout who ”cooked” the white powder and injected himself and then used the same needle to inject Christine Sheesley, a Girard High School student who was celebrating her 17th birthday on that day, April 6, 2012.

Morrow was delivering closing arguments in the case.

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.

Stevens, who called police, has already pleaded guilty to the same involuntary manslaughter charge along with other counts and expects to face a recommended sentence of five years in prison after his testimony earlier in the case against Patterson, 28, also known by the nickname of ”Fresh.”

Patterson turned down a deal last week to serve 10 years and could face up to 40 years in prison on the manslaughter charge along with two counts of corrupting another with drugs, three counts of trafficking heroin, possession of cocaine, and tampering with evidence.

More than a month after the teen’s death, Stevens was arrested and Girard police set up a buy-bust scenario to snag Patterson with heroin and cocaine in his car inside a Trumbull Avenue car wash.

The jury of six men and six women spent about an hour considering the charges Wednesday before Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice sent them home for the day. The panel was also supplied a fan after Rice pointed out how air conditioning inside the courthouse wasn’t working and jurors were becoming uncomfortable.

The jury also is considering a lesser included offense of reckless homicide against Patterson if they can’t agree to convict on the manslaughter charge. Reckless homicide has a maximum penalty of five years, and the manslaughter charge could send someone to prison for 10 or 11 years.

Patterson’s attorney, James Lanzo, insisted that his client ”is not responsible for the tragedy that we are here for today.”

Instead, Lanzo suggested that Stevens was the most culpable in the case and is just trying to save himself and shift the blame to Patterson, who left after supplying the drugs but returned later in the night or early the next day to offer advice that Sheesley would be OK if she got rest or took a cold shower. Patterson was called back to the scene by a frightened Stevens who was there with Sheesley’s best friend trying to revive the teen.

But Stevens took similar advice from his father and two of Sheesley’s friends who were in the apartment at different points during what appeared to be a 10- or 12-hour period. They all suggested that the girl would eventually wake up.

”All those (at the apartment) are morally responsible, but not criminally responsible,” Morrow said.

”Tyler places the blame on everyone but himself. He’s the one who cooked up the heroin and shoved it in her arm,” Lanzo told jurors in his closing.

Lanzo even suggested Stevens could have contributed to the death by throwing water in Sheesley’s face at one point, since the coroner said pneumonia was a secondary cause of the death besides the drug.