A local man is facing nearly two decades behind bars for his role in the death of a 32-year-old mother of two sons.
Shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, a jury convicted Jonathan E. Berry, 47, of 9243 DeGood Road, Marysville of one count of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs.
The verdict came after four days of trial and more than seven hours of deliberation.
The jury, six men and six women, heard from a variety of family members, investigators, doctors and fellow drug users. After hearing the evidence, the jury agreed that Berry supplied the drugs that killed Ashley Nichole Russell of Marysville. Russell, then 32, died June 19, 2017.
An autopsy showed she overdosed on a mixture of Fentanyl, amphetamines and Methamphetamines. During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Berry sold drugs to Russell as well as others in the community.
Assistant County Prosecutor Kelly Hamilton showed the jurors text messages between Berry and Russell setting up the buy. He also showed the jury a June 19, 2017 video tape of Russell, walking with one of her sons and Berry at the store where they agreed to meet.
Hours later, Russell was found dead, nude on the bathroom floor at her parents’ home. At least one son was found in the home where his mother lay dead.
Defense attorney Joel Spitzer argued that Russell was a drug addict who had multiple suppliers and could have gotten the drugs that killed her from any of her suppliers, including one of her relatives.
“She was using drugs all over the place,” Spitzer said. “No one drug, no one person can be blamed for her death.”
Family members testified they knew Russell was a drug addict and they feared she would overdose. Russell’s parents allowed her to live with them because they worried about her hanging out with certain people. Spitzer said police never investigated those people because they were focused on Berry. He pointed out that on the undercover audio recordings, Berry actually tells friends he did not supply the drugs that killed Russell. The defense attorney also argued that because of her addiction, Russell would not have waited hours to use drugs, regardless of where she got them.
“We all make choices,” Spitzer said. “Ashley made choices over and over and over and over.”
Hamilton said Berry actually sold the same mix to that killed Russell to other confidential informants. He said Berry knew the power of the drugs because in a text message to Russell a day earlier, he talked about another woman who kept passing out at dinner because of them.
Hamilton acknowledged Russell was a drug-sick addict, willing to do nearly anything for drugs. He said it didn’t matter whether she was a good person or not. He presented a checklist of the things that did matter including that Russell died of a drug overdose and Berry gave the drugs to her.
He said Russell was a drug addict and she paid the price for her addiction. He asked the jury to hold Berry accountable for his decisions to give her the drugs.
With the conviction, Berry faces as many as 17 years in prison. He is set for sentencing March 6.
In 1992, Berry was sentenced to two years in prison for drug related charges.
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