Man charged in Snow Shoe drug overdose death receives sentence

A Lycoming County man found guilty of charges related to a 2018 fatal drug overdose in Snow Shoe was sentenced Thursday to at least three years in state prison.

Savoy Jennings’ maximum sentence handed down by Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine is seven years in state prison. Jennings, 27, was also ordered to pay more than $20,000 for Michael Vivian’s funeral expenses.

Vivian was one of three people who traveled to Williamsport in July 2018 to procure heroin. Jennings sold the drug to Jada Ferguson, who then shared it with Vivian and Chelsea Mehalick, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by state police at Rockview.

Vivian died of a multidrug overdose, Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers told police. Vivian had more than 15 times the lethal limit of fentanyl in his system, Centre County Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw told Grine.

Jennings was convicted in September of two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver fentanyl and one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility.

He was found not guilty of one felony count of drug delivery resulting in death and one misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person. Both of those charges sought to hold Jennings accountable for Vivian’s death.

Ferguson and Mehalick are each in the midst of ongoing plea negotiations, according to court documents.

“Despite the jury’s verdict of not guilty of drug delivery resulting in death, the fact remains that two of the bags of fentanyl sold by (Jennings) to Jada Ferguson caused the death of Michael Vivian,” McGraw wrote in memo sent to Grine before sentencing.

Jennings was raised in foster care until he was 18, has 17 half siblings and nine children with six women, defense lawyer Steve Trialonas said. He questioned whether Jennings was set up to do anything other than sell narcotics.

“This is what he was exposed to growing up in the foster system and this is how he chose to live his life,” Trialonas said. “I question whether anyone really intervened to take him off this path.”

Jennings was recalcitrant as he addressed Grine. He maintained his innocence, said he was not aware of all the charges he faced before trial and pledged to appeal his conviction and sentence.

“I feel as though the charges I was found guilty of I did not do. I know for a fact that I didn’t do it,” Jennings said. “... I didn’t cause that man’s death. I never met this man. ... For me to take blame and fault for his death, I don’t think that’s right.”

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