York County District Attorney Tom Kearney is true to his word.

Facing a sharp increase in local heroin-related deaths, the DA in February pledged to aggressively pursue pushers.

During the past week, two men were charged with drug delivery resulting in death. If convicted, they face the same punishment as someone convicted of third-degree murder — a maximum of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Such prosecutions are a new priority for Kearney's office — and for good reason.

The number of heroin overdose deaths nationwide increased dramatically in recent years — 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In York County, according to Kearney, there have been 17 heroin deaths so far in 2014. That's compared to 16 for all of last year.

Heroin users come from all walks of life and their numbers are increasing, due in part to prescription drug abusers switching to a cheaper, more readily available fix.

Whatever the reason, something has to be done, according to Kearney.

"I don't make any claim that I'm going to stop (users) who want to play Russian roulette with their brains," he said. "What I can stop, I believe, is death from happening on some occasions. And I think I have an obligation to prosecute people who cause death with heroin."


Advertisement

On Wednesday, 19-year-old Tyler Shane Valentine was charged in connection with the death of his high school girlfriend. Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Marie Sneed died Feb. 13 after snorting heroin with Valentine at his New Freedom home. The night before, the pair had driven to Baltimore, where Valentine bought three bags of heroin for $50, according to charging documents.

Julianna Bower was found dead March 18 in her Newberry Township home, packets of heroin and a syringe in her hand. Police suspect the 19-year-old purchased the drug on March 17 from Denzel Rymay Outen, 20, of Dauphin County.

Both men are charged with drug delivery resulting in death and other offenses. Both are in prison in lieu of high bails — $750,000 for Valentine, $500,000 for Outen.

Hopefully, heroin users and pushers take notice.

The gloves are off, and it's about time.