‘It takes everything you love.’ Woman charged in Snow Shoe man’s death blames addiction

Jada Ferguson
Jada Ferguson

Jada Ferguson’s life was spiraling out of control as she bought about 10,000 bags of heroin to satisfy her addiction, she testified Wednesday in the Centre County Courthouse Annex.

Four people, including Ferguson, were charged this month in connection with Michael Vivian’s death. Ferguson, 30, testified about the night of her boyfriend’s death and the years leading up to it during the preliminary hearing for Savoy “Tex” Jennings, the alleged drug dealer.

Jennings, Savoy
Savoy “Tex” Jennings

Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw asked her if she was a heroin addict and — without hesitation — Ferguson testified “Yes.”

She testified her addiction was borne from prescription pain medication, which led her to purchase heroin from Jennings “a couple times a week.”

Those purchases generally involved 10-20 bags of heroin, but those only lasted “a day or two.”

So Jennings would travel to the Philadelphia area, buy more heroin and then sell it to her to keep the cycle going until July.

That’s when Ferguson, her boyfriend Michael Vivian and Chelsea Mehalick drove to Williamsport to buy 22 or 23 bags of heroin from Jennings. The trio then drove to a Williamsport YMCA, “shot up,” and drove back to Snow Shoe.

“I was incoherent and just passed out from Williamsport to Snow Shoe when we drove back. It was really strong,” Ferguson testified. “He (Vivian) just immediately nodded out. He would never drive when we used. He always would, like, fall out — be incoherent.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., explains the bill he is proposing to stop fentanyl from entering the country and says it will not burden local law enforcement during a press conference at the Centre County Courthouse.

When they eventually arrived at Troy Decker’s residence in Snow Shoe, Ferguson testified she was “extremely” concerned and was “freaking out” about Vivian’s condition.

She testified he was making “gurgling noises,” but she still heard a heartbeat so they pulled him out of the vehicle so she could give him CPR.

When the neighbors began to make noise, Vivian’s body was pulled into Decker’s house and a plan was hatched.

“Chelsea came up with a plan to take him to the gas station, say he was a hitchhiker and overdosed in her car,” Ferguson testified.

Mehalick and Decker followed through with the plan, but Ferguson stayed behind.

“I was freaking out, so I just, I just did more drugs,” Ferguson testified.

Those drugs were bought with her money, according to her testimony. She gave Mehalick two bags to snort, Vivian two bags to inject and then injected three bags herself.

She testified she didn’t know when or where Vivian died and only found out after state police at Rockview criminal investigator Jay Pollick told her.

“If I could go back in time, I would do things completely different. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish it was me. This was the love of my life. I messed up. I did,” Ferguson testified. “I had a warrant out for my arrest and I was scared. It’s dumb, but I was scared.”

More than half a million people died between 2000 and 2015 from opioid use. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the national opioid crisis a public health emergency.

And while she testified she gave Mehalick and Vivian the heroin she purchased, she said she was not a drug dealer.

“It’s horrible. I wouldn’t push it on anybody,” Ferguson testified. “It’s fun at first, but then it spirals out of control. It takes everything you love.”

After hearing closing arguments from McGraw and attorney Steven Trialonas, District Judge Casey McClain asked about the autopsy report, which said the cause of Vivian’s death was a fentanyl, acetylfentanyl and cocaine overdose — not heroin.

He eventually bound Jennings over for trial on all charges — one felony count of drug delivery resulting in death, one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility, two felony counts of unlawful possession and one misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person.

Jennings previously posted $100,000 bail, but he is now on supervised bail and has to “check in by phone” at least three times per week.

Ferguson and Decker waived their respective preliminary hearings, while Mehalick is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 2.

“This is a horrible, horrible epidemic locally and nationally,” McClain said. “It is something that exists in this world.”

You might think that only some types of people can get addicted to drugs. The truth is, it can happen to anyone, whether you're young or old, rich or poor, male or female.

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.