A Bellefonte man was sentenced Thursday to five to 10 years in state prison after he pleaded guilty in July to one felony count of drug delivery resulting in death.
Douglas Sunday, 31, returned to Centre County from Cambria County in April 2018 with three bundles of heroin that were shared with Stephen Watkins and Christopher Hagens, according to a criminal complaint filed by state police at Rockview in June 2018.
The three “shot up,” at Sunday’s residence before Watkins and Hagens went to a Deer Creek Lane residence in Benner Township and continued to inject heroin, police wrote in the complaint.
At a preliminary hearing in August 2018, Watkins testified he was the one who injected Hagens because Hagens was afraid of needles. Watkins woke up the next morning; Hagens did not, even as his alarm clock went off, Watkins testified.
“Basically my world ended at that point, so I didn’t care if I lived or died,” Watkins testified. “My first thought was, ‘I’m probably going to jail for a very long time.’ I was in a full-blown panic.”
Motions were made, months passed and trial preparation continued. A jury was selected, Sunday’s defense attorney Steve Trialonas said, but plea negotiations were ongoing since at least September.
Then, on July 1, the district attorney’s office’s “chief witness,” Watkins, died of a fentanyl overdose, Centre County Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said.
The two sides reached a plea agreement the next day.
Watkins’ death represented “another tragic chapter in the opioid epidemic,” McGraw said in a statement after the sentence was announced. The death also “complicated” McGraw’s ability to prove the case at trial, he said.
“It’s been said that if you get involved with heroin, you either end up dead or in jail,” Trialonas told Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine during Sunday’s sentencing. “In this case, two are dead and one is going to jail.”
McGraw said Sunday exhibited “destructive behavior” over the past 10 years, while Trialonas said Sunday, a man who was involved with drugs for much of his life, “has never been involved in a case like this.”
Sunday wrote a poem to express his remorse, Trialonas said, and told Grine he has since “had time to educate” himself. Grine thanked Sunday and announced the sentence, which included 478 days credit for time already served in the Centre County Correctional Facility.
Trialonas declined to comment after the sentence was announced.