Woman pleads guilty to controlled-substance homicide

Vancouver man died of heroin overdose last summer

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: April 23, 2012, 5:48 PM

 

A Vancouver woman accused of having a hand in the fatal heroin overdose of a man last summer pleaded guilty to controlled-substance homicide and possession of a controlled substance.

Brittany N. Sonnen, 26, agreed to plead guilty to the charges Friday evening, on the eve of her co-defendant’s controlled-substance homicide trial this week.

Jerome Otto, 22, of Vancouver will stand trial in Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle’s courtroom. Sonnen signed an agreement with prosecutors to testify against Otto at trial.

Opening statements in Otto’s trial are set to begin today; attorneys were picking a jury Monday afternoon.

Prosecutors allege the two sold heroin to Adam Hurd of Vancouver through his girlfriend last August. Three days later, Hurd, 24, died of a drug overdose.

The two defendants allegedly knew Hurd had overdosed on heroin before, and knew Hurd’s father had tried to help him with his heroin addiction by having him work at a family business in Eastern Oregon.

Otto and Sonnen “knew that Hurd would use heroin on the weekends when he returned and that he obtained heroin through his girlfriend,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court.

When they learned of his death, the two allegedly tried to conceal their involvement in the drug sale, according to court documents.

Controlled-substance homicide is defined as unlawfully delivering a drug that ultimately causes a person’s death.

In exchange for Sonnen’s expected testimony, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey said in court papers that he will seek a sentence of between 51 to 68 months in prison for the homicide charge. The possession charge carries a sentencing range of zero to six months in jail. A judge will decide how much time Sonnen will serve.

In the plea agreement, Harvey agreed to drop the aggravating factor of “lack of remorse” in exchange for Sonnen’s plea.

If Sonnen does not testify in Otto’s trial and were to be convicted on the stiffer charges, she could face a sentence of between 13 and 21 years in prison, according to court papers.

Ordered to be held without bail, Sonnen will be sentenced April 30.

Otto’s trial is expected to last four days.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.