Sentence delivered for heroin deaths

Second defendant gets 10 years for role in overdoses

By Joe Beck

HARRISONBURG — A woman convicted for her role in a pair of fatal heroin overdoses was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 10 years in prison, less than half the sentence received by a co-defendant in the case last week.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski cited Carrie Ann Hart’s remorsefulness, lesser degree of involvement in the overdose deaths, acceptance of responsibility and her unusual level of cooperation with law enforcement among his reasons for the sentence.

Urbanski sentenced Tyler Christian Clements, Hart’s co-defendant and ex-boyfriend, to 22 years in prison on Oct. 30.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright also asked for a sentence of 10 years, well below the 20 years in federal sentencing guidelines for the offenses committed by Hart.

Court documents describe a period of almost two years when Hart and Clements made repeated trips to Baltimore to obtain heroin, which they brought back to the Winchester area for sale and their own use. Two overdose deaths six weeks apart in August and September 2013 brought their trafficking to a halt and led to their arrests and prosecutions.

Urbanski and Wright said Clements, 25, had directly provided the fatal heroin overdoses to the two victims, Derek Lee Sprouse, 30, of Stephens City, and Stephen Douglas Cymek, 34, of Ocean Pines, Maryland. Hart, while present in the same vehicle when Clements passed heroin to Sprouse, did not interact with the victim previously and did not set up the transaction, Wright said. Hart, 24, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was not present when Clements gave heroin to Cymek while the two men were staying at the Oxford House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

For the second time in the last week, feelings ran high in the courtroom as family members of the victims made their feelings known.

Teresa Nelson, the mother of Sprouse, fought through tears as she told Urbanski that Hart deserved a lesser sentence than Clements, although it came too late to save her son. But Nelson, who also testified at Clements’ sentencing, said the memory of discovering her son’s lifeless body in their home continues to haunt her.

“Not only do I suffer from flashbacks,” Nelson said, “I suffer from auditory flashbacks hearing my own scream.”

Wright described Hart’s cooperation with law enforcement as “pivotal” in an investigation leading up to the shooting death in April of a major heroin dealer in Baltimore by FBI agents.

The dealer, Jameel O. Harrison, 34, was the main source of heroin for Clements and Hart and, through his association with them, much of the Winchester area, Wright said.

“Her information was very useful in linking that Baltimore source of supply to the two heroin overdose deaths,” Wright told Urbanski.

Hart also provided key grand jury testimony in describing Clements’ role in the overdose deaths, Wright said.

Hart wept through much of her testimony during which she recounted a life that began in childhood with aspirations of becoming a teacher, having a family and “living happily ever after.”

“However, I found out life was far from a fairy tale,” Hart said.

Clements introduced Hart to heroin, according to court documents. Hart said she is still trying to sort through everything that has happened since.

“I can’t explain to you how my life became so unmanageable in such a short period of time,” she told Urbanski.

Hart also apologized for her actions.

“There are no words to express my sympathy to everyone involved in this tragic situation,” Hart said.

Urbanski said heroin trafficking could not be tolerated and sentences had to be harsh enough to deter others from committing such crimes.

He said the hearing’s testimony persuaded him that Hart deserved a much lighter sentence than Clements, although 10 years in prison still served the purpose of deterrence.

“I think there’s a real difference between these people and how they responded to the tragedies,” Urbanski said of Hart and Clements.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com