Girard girl celebrated her birthday with family members then died of heroin overdose, prosecutor says

By Ed Runyan


Experimentation with heroin led to the death of Christine Sheesley, and now James L. Patterson, the Youngstown man charged with providing the drug, is on trial today on manslaughter and other charges.

Sheesley, a junior at Girard High School, celebrated her 17th birthday a year ago April 6 with a shopping trip with her mom and sisters, followed by dinner with family members.

Later that evening, Sheesley and a girlfriend she’d known since fourth grade went to the apartment of a young man Sheesley knew, Tyler Stevens.

Sheesley “thought it would be interesting to do heroin,” said Charles Morrow, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor.

That decision proved fatal, Morrow said Monday as Patterson’s trial began in county common pleas court.

Sheesley, of Church Hill Road in Girard, was found dead in Stevens’ apartment on Park Avenue in Girard the next morning.

Girard police learned that Stevens bought the drug from Patterson, 27, of Division Street, who was known as “Fresh.” Patterson brought the drug to Stevens’ apartment, Morrow said.

Stevens “cooked” it, and Sheesley and Stevens injected it with a needle. Sheesley provided the $50 to buy it, Morrow said during the first day of Patterson’s trial. The girlfriend left while the other two were using the drug, Morrow said.

Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, county coroner, will testify that Sheesley died of “excessive heroin,” Morrow said.

Stevens pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, corrupting another with drugs, heroin trafficking and permitting drug abuse late last year and will be sentenced after the trial. He’s expected to testify at Patterson’s trial.

Patterson faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of corrupting another with drugs and one count of heroin trafficking for providing the drug that killed Sheesley.

He also faces two other counts of heroin trafficking and single counts of cocaine possession and tampering with evidence because of a drug sting Girard police carried out May 24, 2012, at a car wash on Trumbull Avenue in Girard.

Police found heroin and cocaine in the car with Patterson and two other people, Morrow said.

Patterson, who could get about 30 years in prison if he’s convicted of the charges, refused a plea bargain that would have put him behind bars for 10 years.

“The evidence is going to show Mr. Patterson is a dealer, but the evidence is also going to show that he is a delivery person ... that Mr. Patterson got the ball rolling that ultimately resulted in Christine’s death,” Morrow said.

Patterson’s attorney, James E. Lanzo, told jurors in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Rice that Tyler Stevens’ conduct is what caused Christine’s death.

He added, while pointing to Patterson, “This young man ... did not kill or cause to be killed Christine Sheesley. He didn’t corrupt her with drugs. He didn’t do anything. Tyler Stevens did that.”

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