Public Safety

Three sentenced to prison for selling opioids that led to deaths

One man receives life sentence

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Three men who distributed opioids that led to three deaths were sentenced to federal prison over the last week, including one man who received a life sentence.

“Opioid abuse remains at an all-time high, and these dangerous drugs wreak havoc on lives and communities,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said Thursday during a news conference to highlight the office’s efforts to prosecute the distributors. “Street drugs — including those sold over the internet — routinely contain powerful opioids. These drugs have never been more deadly, and anyone caught distributing them will be held accountable.”

These drugs are so potent that “extremely” small doses can cause an overdose or even death, Deegan said.

Richard L. Parker, 47, of Dubuque, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison. He was convicted by a jury in January for distribution of heroin within 1,000 feet of an elementary school and playground, resulting in death, and possession with intent to distribute heroin within 1,000 feet of an elementary school and a playground.

Evidence showed Parker obtained heroin in Chicago last year and took the drug to a Dubuque residence on Easter, where he and others drank alcohol and smoked crack cocaine throughout the day.

Just before midnight, Parker gave one woman heroin and shortly after taking it she stopped breathing. About 20 minutes later, Parker called 911, and while emergency responders attempted to save the woman’s life, he went into another room to hide the remaining heroin, according to testimony at trial.

The attempts to resuscitate the woman were unsuccessful, authorities said.

Deegan said Parker had numerous felony convictions, which added to his prison time. He had four felony drug-related convictions, including drug distribution.

Jervonie Murphy, 26, of Dubuque, was sentenced last week to over two years in prison after pleading guilty in May to two counts of distributing heroin within 1,000 feet of a public playground or school in Dubuque.

During the sentencing, Murphy admitted he sold at least 80 grams of heroin between 2015 and 2018. He sold heroin to one woman on July 18, 2016, who shared the drug with another woman, who was found unresponsive the next morning and died two days later. The autopsy showed she died of “mixed drug toxicity” involving methamphetamine and heroin.

Evidence at sentencing showed Murphy sold heroin again, less than two weeks later. The Dubuque Drug Task Force eventually made two controlled buys of heroin from Murphy. One sale was made within 1,000 feet of two playgrounds in Dubuque and the second was within 1,000 feet of an elementary school. During a search of Murphy’s home, officers found marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin and fentanyl — a powerful opioid used for pain.

On Oct. 11, Jay Rickert, 28, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in June to willfully causing the distribution of a controlled substance.

According to sentencing documents, Rickert admitted to ordering DMT — an illegal hallucinogenic drug — from an online supplier on the “dark web.” Rickert had the drugs shipped directly to his friend, a 22-year‑old Dubuque woman. He also shipped a precise digital scale to the woman, and provided her detailed instructions on the quantity of DMT she could safely use.

But the supplier shipped fentanyl instead of DMT to the woman, which Rickert didn’t know, according to court documents. DMT and fentanyl are nearly identical in appearance. The woman took the drug, thinking it was the hallucinogenic drug, and died.

Court documents showed Rickert was talking to the woman over Skype while she used the drug. After he saw her fall out of her chair, he called 911. An autopsy later revealed her cause of death was a fentanyl overdose.

Rickert had no criminal history before this conviction, according to prosecutors.

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

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