Judge Jonathan Grine on Monday spoke to the uniqueness of the case of Ryan Kemp, 28, before sentencing the Pennsylvania Furnace man to four to 12 years plus a year of probation for the death of a Boalsburg woman.
It was unique because Kemp’s actions had resulted in the overdose of Elizabeth Kline Smeltzer in January, Grine said. Also unique, her parents and other members of the community — many present Monday — came forward to advocate toward a sentence based on treatment rather than incarceration for him.
“They’re betting on you to work towards rehab and to realize the gravity of your actions,” Grine said to Kemp.
In an October trial, Kemp was convicted of delivering the drugs that killed Kline Smeltzer, 21, in Kemp’s home in January. Ken and Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, Elizabeth’s parents, have been outspoken about a restorative approach with an emphasis on recovery, not incarceration, for Kemp’s sentence. The Kline Smeltzers have also expressed hopes that their daughter’s death and Kemp’s sentence can change the way addiction is viewed and handled in Centre County.
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Casey McClain, Kemp’s public defender, spoke to that in his statements and said Grine was also in a unique position. McClain asked Grine to be “progressive” and set a positive example for future cases. In the end, nothing can bring Elizabeth back, but Kemp could still be helped, McClain said.
“The only positive that can come of this is we can save this kid here,” McClain said.
Kemp himself addressed the packed courtroom, where about two dozen people had gathered.
He has had a lot of time to think in jail, he said, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about Elizabeth or her family, he said. The support of both his family and the Kline Smeltzers has been “a blessing,” he said.
However, his role in her death disturbs him and he acknowledged that he has not lived a sober life and has been “selfish.”
“I take responsibility,” Kemp said. “I provided the heroin she overdosed on.”
Assistant District Attorney Nathan Boob agreed. The “horrible” case boiled down to responsibility and could have been prevented by Kemp had he not sold and used the drugs with Kline Smeltzer. He read text messages Kemp sent to Kline Smeltzer before her death negotiating prices on the heroin and setting up the meeting in Kemp’s home that resulted in her death.
“Make no mistake about it, Mr. Kemp is a drug dealer,” Boob said.
Boob also pointed to Kemp’s past with addiction and that prior rehabilitation had failed. Additional supervision provided by prison-based programs would be best for helping him with his addiction and ensure an event like that in January doesn’t happen again. He recommended a sentence of five to 15 years plus a year’s probation for Kemp.
Both Ken and Bonnie Kline Smeltzer read statements to Grine before the sentence. Both said they missed their daughter and reiterated that they blamed no one else for what happened and expressed an interest in rehabilitation to secure a future for Kemp.
“We would not want to see another life lost to a long prison sentence on top of the life of our daughter, all because of one night’s mistakes,” Ken said.