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Heroin death trial postponed

February 25, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The federal jury trial of two people charged in the heroin overdose death of a Chambersburg teenager last year has been postponed, an assistant U.S. attorney said.

Heather Lee, 19, formerly of 21 W. Main St., Fayetteville, Pa., and James Snyder, 25, of 9 Larch Drive, Shippensburg, Pa., were scheduled to go on trial Monday, said William Behe of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg, Pa. The new trial date is Monday, April 5, before Judge Yvette Kane of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, he said.

Lee and Snyder are charged with unlawful distribution of heroin and unlawful distribution of heroin resulting in the death of Jennifer Renee Robinson, Behe said. Both were indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 17, Behe said.

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A conviction on the first charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, Behe said. A conviction on the second charge carries a sentence of 20 years to life.

Jennifer Robinson, 16, was found unconscious in her Chambersburg-area home on Feb. 20, 2003, and was pronounced dead at Chambersburg Hospital, Pennsylvania State Police said. Results of toxicology tests showed she died of an overdose of opiates.

Behe said the federal indictment alleges Snyder and Lee distributed heroin between December 2002 and Feb. 20, 2003. The second charge related specifically to the distribution of heroin made the day of Robinson's death.

The indictments contained "no discussion of the underlying facts" of the case, Behe said earlier this month.

Lee is out on bond and moved to another town while she is awaiting trial, Behe said. Snyder is incarcerated, but Behe did not know where.

Snyder, a resident of Cumberland County, is not being held in either the Cumberland County or Franklin County prisons, prison officials said.

"I don't know exactly when she was introduced to her," Jennifer Robinson's mother, Cindy Robinson, said recently about the relationship between her daughter and Heather Lee. Robinson said she may have been introduced to Lee while picking up Jennifer from the restaurant where she worked.

Robinson said she had never heard of Snyder.

"A victim's advocate has been calling and keeping us informed" about the progress of the case in federal court, she said.

Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said federal authorities got involved last year "because the reputed source of the drugs was a dealer in Baltimore."

"It involved multiple jurisdictions and was the most practical way to approach it," he said.

Asked if there was a Baltimore connection to the case, Behe said he could not comment on any ongoing investigations or confirm if any other investigations were ongoing in the Robinson case.

Since the death of their daughter, Robinson said she and her husband, Don, have been involved with Enough is Enough, an alliance of drug and alcohol abuse agencies and police. The group holds meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month in Chambersburg's recreation center.

She said the meetings are open to families and friends of those with addiction problems and to those with substance abuse problems.

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