Man sentenced for dual heroin deaths
By Joe Beck
HARRISONBURG — A Stephens City man died from a heroin overdose on Aug. 16, 2013 after Tyler Christian Clements sold the drug to him the night before.
Less than six weeks later, a second man died from heroin he obtained from Clements, this time in a drug and rehabilitation facility in Winchester where they were both staying.
Clements’s role in the deaths of Derek Sprouse, 30, of Stephens City and the second victim, identified only as S.D.C., father of four, led U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski to sentence Clements on Thursday to 22 years in prison. The sentence also included five years supervised probation upon completion of the prison sentence.
The sentencing came after members of the victims’ families tearfully described their anger at Clements for providing heroin to their loved ones hours before their deaths.
The wife of S.D.C. testified that his loss devastated her and her children. She said one of her children, a 15-year-old, has attempted suicide three times since his father’s death.
“As long as I live I will never forget the image of my son crying over S.C.’s coffin and refusing to let go of his hand,” she told Urbanski.
S.D.C.’s wife said Clements refused to aid her husband when he saw him losing consciousness during the overdose, an accusation Clements later denied in his testimony.
Teresa Nelson, the mother of Sprouse, said she discovered her son dead in the downstairs bathroom of her home on Aug. 16.
When she learned that Clements had supplied heroin to her son the night before, she tried to imagine what might have been running through Clements’s mind, Nelson said.
“I actually felt compassion for Mr. Clements,” Nelson said.
But then Clements was arrested and charged with providing heroin to another overdose victim. Nelson said she concluded that Clements’s own heroin addiction had robbed him of any semblance of humanity.
“My son’s death meant nothing to him,” Nelson said.
Defense attorney Andrea Harris admitted that her client had committed serious offenses that deserved a long prison sentence, but she asked Urbanski that it be limited to 18 years. Clements, Harris said, was addicted to heroin himself and was selling the drug only to earn enough money to satisfy his own cravings.
She said Clements’s role in Sprouse’s death and the subsequent law enforcement investigation left her client “terrified” and in a “desperate state of mind” that made him even less able to control his heroin habit while he was out on bail and in the rehabilitation center with S.D.C.
“Instead of scaring him straight, it scared him into using even more,” Harris said of the investigation into Sprouse’s death.
Clements apologized to the families and told Urbanski that, “I’ll forever be a changed person” as a result of the deaths of Sprouse and S.D.C.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t feel sick just thinking about it,” Clements said.
Urbanski noted that Clements had no prior offenses, and appeared to be selling the drug to earn money to pay for his own addiction. But Clements’s continued heroin dealing after Sprouse’s death tipped the scales in favor of a harsh sentence.
“I can think of nothing more reprehensible, nothing more abominable than after one friend dies to continue supplying it to others,” Urbanski said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org