Teens testify in heroin OD trial

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Alexis Hugel of Girard cries on the witness stand Tuesday while testifying about the events of April 6, 2012, the day her best friend, Christine Sheesley, overdosed on heroin.




Two teens testified they were worried when their 17-year-old friend, Christine Sheesley, lay unconscious in a Girard apartment after injecting heroin, but failed to seek medical help for her.

“I just thought she’d wake up,” Alexis Hugel, 18, of Girard, testified in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court during thesecond day of the trial of James L. Patterson, 27, of Youngstown.

Hugel, who was Sheesley’s best friend and knew her since kindergarten, said she hoped Sheesley wasn’t planning to do heroin that night, April 6, 2012. When Sheesley and Tyler Stevens, now 20, decided to inject the drug, Hugel said she left Stevens’ apartment.

When she returned about 20 minutes later, about 9:30 p.m., Sheesley was unconscious, “slumped down” beside a recliner.

Hugel said she held onto Sheesley, trying to wake her, and later put a cold, wet towel on Sheesley’s head because Sheesley felt hot.

Over the next five or so hours, Hugel and Stevens talked to several people, including Patterson, who is accused of selling the drug to Stevens and Sheesley, trying to find out whether Sheesley was in any danger.

Over and over, everyone said Sheesley needed sleep and would be alright, they testified.

Stevens, wearing orange jail clothes because he’s also charged in Sheesley’s death, testified that he called Patterson to come back to the apartment around midnight.

“He looked at her, and he said she’d be alright,” Stevens said. “I was freaking out, punching myself, screaming.”

Stevens said he filled a small cup with water and threw it at Sheesley’s face, slapped her face a couple times and shook her.

Stevens also said he talked about whether Sheesley was going to be OK with Hugel and with his father, who came home around 2 a.m. and left again for work around 7 a.m.

Stevens and Hugel fell asleep around 3 a.m. and awoke again around 7 a.m., when Stevens’ father told him to call police. Stevens said he thought Sheesley was still alive because he heard “rattles.”

Patterson, of Division Street, is charged with involuntarily manslaughter and corrupting another with drugs in Sheesley’s death, as well as multiple counts of heroin trafficking and cocaine possession.

Some of the counts relate to a drug sting Girard police carried out May 24, 2012, in which police found Patterson in a car in Girard with heroin and cocaine.

Stevens pleaded guilty late last year to charges similar to Patterson’s and reached a plea agreement with prosecutors calling for him to spend five years in prison in exchange for testimony relating to Patterson.

Under questioning by Atty. James E. Lanzo, Patterson’s attorney, Stevens said he and Sheesley had done heroin a few times before the night Sheesley died.

Stevens and Hugel admitted they lied to Girard police in their first few interviews about whether drugs were used the night Sheesley died.

But under questioning by Lanzo, Stevens admitted he also lied to a Trumbull County grand jury when he said Sheesley had injected the drug into herself.

Stevens said his testimony in court Tuesday was true — that he “cooked” the heroin, injected himself and Sheesley — and that Patterson had brought the drug to the apartment about 9:30 p.m. Stevens said he’d done heroin for about three years.

Kathy Migliozzi of Girard, mother of Cortney L. Rushwin, 16, who died in 2006 from a drug overdose, was in the courtroom Tuesday to support Sheesley’s parents.

Migliozzi said testimony in this trial reinforces how easy it is for young people to get dangerous drugs.

“There was nothing like that in Girard when I grew up,” she said, but today she sees a huge number of young people at the Girard grocery store where she works “all beat up with marks on their faces, stealing to get money for heroin.”

In the overdoses of her daughter and Sheesley, a friend knew about the drug abuse but didn’t tell anyone.

“It’s peer pressure, trying to be like somebody,” Migliozzi said of why young people start using dangerous drugs.

Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, testified that Sheesley died from a low-level heroin overdose and pneumonia. The pneumonia most likely resulted from fluids from her mouth getting into her lungs while she was unconscious.

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