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Pa. man sentenced in fatal overdose of teen

August 19, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The mother of a 16-year-old girl who died of a heroin overdose more than two years ago said the sentencing of a second person on drug trafficking charges this week in federal court did little to ease her family's loss.

"The night of Feb. 20, 2003, when I found Jennifer in her bedroom slumped over and not breathing, my peaceful life came to an end," Cindy Robinson of Chambersburg told Judge Yvette Kane Monday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa.

Robinson was there for the sentencing of James Snyder, 27, formerly of Shippensburg, Pa., who pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of use of a telephone to further a drug trafficking crime. Snyder received an eight-year federal prison term and another year of supervision following his release, according to his attorney, Gregory Abeln.

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Snyder, who already has spent two years in prison, received the same sentence as Heather Lee, 21, formerly of Fayetteville, Pa., who pleaded guilty to the same charges last year and was sentenced in June.

Lee and Snyder were indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2003. Both were charged with unlawful distribution of heroin and unlawful distribution of heroin resulting in the death of Robinson.

When Lee entered a plea agreement last year, U.S. Assistant Attorney William Behe said in court that Jennifer Robinson left her house about 6:45 p.m. on the day of her death and returned about an hour later.

Behe alleged at Lee's hearing that Robinson and Lee set up the deal by cell phone and met in the parking lot of a Chambersburg restaurant, where Robinson gave Lee $50. Lee then bought the heroin from Snyder and gave some of it to Robinson, Behe said.

Lee later called Snyder to tell him that Robinson was dead and Pennsylvania State Police were trying to find the source of the blue-capped vials, Behe said after Snyder's plea agreement.

Snyder then went to Baltimore and bought orange-capped vials of heroin in an attempt to throw police off, he said.

"I feel Mr. Snyder believes he should not be punished for my daughter's death and that he has no remorse," Robinson said in a written statement she read in court Monday.

"I look at you as a weak person that allowed yourself to get involved with drugs" and selling them to support his addiction, Robinson said. "It saddens me to include Jennifer in that same category, but I must be honest with myself."

"Jennifer's life ended 13 days before her 17th birthday," Robinson said in court. "She did not get to go to her junior prom, but a prom dress hangs in our closet, never to be worn."

Abeln said his client told the court "he never intended those drugs go any further than the person he gave them to." Snyder did not realize Lee would give some of the heroin to Jennifer Robinson, Abeln said.

Abeln, who is the second attorney to represent Snyder in the case, said Snyder apologized to the Robinson family for dragging out the legal proceedings for more than two years. Snyder also apologized to his family, Abeln said.

"As a mother ... as long as there are people out there like him and Heather Lee, there will never be closure," Robinson said Tuesday.

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