Heroin dealers in overdose case sentenced to prison

HARRISONBURG – The first two of seven defendants in a drug ring that authorities believe distributed at least 1 ½ pounds of heroin around Front Royal were sentenced in U.S. District Court Thursday to several years in prison each.

Christopher William Spencer and Christina Gayle Crawford, both 25, are described in court documents as a pair of heroin addicts whose dealing contributed to the near fatal overdose of a victim identified only by the initials J.S.

A statement of facts signed by Crawford said she and Spencer “obtained multi-gram quantities of heroin on a daily basis . . . for a period of about four months. During that time, Spencer and Crawford personally moved hundreds of grams of heroin from Baltimore to Front Royal and had more than a dozen heroin customers.”

Judge Michael Urbanski said he was especially troubled that Crawford and Spencer continued shuttling back and forth between their supplier in Baltimore and their customers in Front Royal for months after J.S. overdosed. Urbanski said their persistence in running drugs, even though they learned of J.S’s overdose almost immediately after she was stricken, showed how completely heroin addiction controlled their lives.

Urbanski said they were also more culpable than if they had stopped dealing heroin after J.S. overdosed.

Court records say that on July 23, 2014, Spencer and Crawford gave another member of the ring, Tori Butler, an unspecified amount of heroin while the three were in a vehicle.
Butler then went to a house and gave some of the same heroin to J.S., authorities say.

“Following her overdose, J.S. was found lying on the floor without color and gasping for air,” the statement of facts says, adding that by the time emergency responders arrived, she was “completely unresponsive and non-reactive to pain.”

The same court document says that emergency responders administered the heroin overdose antidote Narcan, and J.S. began to recover.

“If not for Narcan, somebody who overdosed could have died,” Urbanski told Crawford. “It is a serious offense. It deserves a serious penalty.”

Urbanski sentenced Crawford to four years and four months in prison, minus time she has already served in the state penal system for the same crime, which leaves her with three years and four months to serve.

Spencer, who was living with Crawford at the time of the offense and has a child with her, was sentenced to five years and 10 months, minus time already served in state custody, which will require him to serve four years and eight months in a federal prison.

Crawford wept as she delivered a statement to Urbanski after her probation officer and defense attorney said she had turned her life around since her release from the state prison system.

She admitted she flunked a drug test last week, but she told Urbanski that she had obtained a job, was deeply involved in the life of her child, engaged to marry, and been compliant with the terms of her probation.

“I’ve learned a very harsh and powerful lesson throughout this,” Crawford said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Wolthuis calculated that Crawford and Spencer, together with others involved in the ring, spread at least 680 grams of heroin around Front Royal, the equivalent of about 1 ½ pounds.

Court records attribute one other non-fatal heroin overdose to the conspiracy.

Another addict, who died from an overdose, was linked to the conspiracy, but authorities say his overdose was not a direct result of his participation in it.

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