Public Safety

Dubuque woman pleads to helping buy heroin that led to fatal overdose of another person

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Dubuque woman who helped her boyfriend and another person buy heroin that later led to a fatal overdose was convicted Thursday in federal court.

Jacqueline M. Birch, 23, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance.

During the plea hearing, Birch admitted she knew that another person was going to illegally distribute a drug last May, and she aided in that distribution.

Evidence at a previous hearing showed that Birch drove her boyfriend, Mateusz Syryjczyk, 29, of Rockford, Ill., and another person, not identified in court documents, to a residence in Dubuque on May 27. Birch and the other person went into the residence and bought heroin from a dealer. The three drove to a hotel in Dubuque and all used the heroin.

The other person began to overdose in the room, but Birch and Syryjczyk didn’t immediately call 911, according to evidence. Over many hours, Birch occasionally would perform CPR on the person to restore some breathing function, though the person never regained consciousness.

Eventually, Birch and Syryjczyk decided to call 911, and Syryjczyk took the remaining drug paraphernalia from the room to prevent law enforcement from finding it, according to court documents. Birch and Syryjczyk also made false statements to police about the cause of the person’s condition.

Court documents showed the overdose victim died at the scene. An autopsy later determined the cause of death was use of heroin, fentanyl and valeryl fentanyl.

Syryjczyk previously pleaded to misprision of a felony and remains free on bond pending sentencing.

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Birch faces up to 20 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine and supervised release for life following her prison term.

Sentencing will be set after a presentencing report is prepared.

The case was investigated by the Dubuque Drug Task Force and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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