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York woman sentenced in case of fatal heroin overdose
A York City woman has been sentenced for delivering heroin to the friend of a man who overdosed and died from the drug. Police allege others in the house at the time prevented the friend from calling 911 for medical help.
Shybri Latae Walker, 30, of South Queen Street, had originally been charged with the felony of drug delivery resulting in death, which is akin in severity to a third-degree murder charge, with a maximum 20- to 40-year state prison sentence.
But chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday said he was willing to let that charge be dismissed because, without Walker, three others allegedly responsible for allowing William Elza to die wouldn't be facing justice.
"(Federal) indictments would never have happened" without Walker's help, he told presiding York County Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner on Monday at Walker's sentencing hearing. The three men are facing possible life sentences, Sunday has said.
Walker pleaded guilty in February to delivering heroin. It was an open plea, meaning there was no agreed-upon sentence.
Went through rehab: But Sunday and defense attorney attorney Bill Graff did agree that while she awaited sentencing, Walker would be released to a drug-rehabilitation center and remain on supervised probation.
At the time, Graff said Walker was battling heroin addiction and needed to be on "a real short leash" to reduce temptation.
Walker completed treatment, "got her life back in order" and was going to college when she relapsed and began using drugs again, Sunday said, at which point she was sent back to prison to await sentencing.
As of Monday, when she was sentenced, Walker had been locked up for 371 days, according to court records.
Sunday and Graff asked the judge to impose a prison sentence of a year minus a day to two years minus two days, plus five years of probation.
Conditions: They asked that Walker undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and remain in York County Prison until a bed at an inpatient treatment facility opened up. They also asked Bortner to require, as a condition of parole, that Walker successfully complete treatment.
After listening to both attorneys, Bortner agreed and imposed the sentence as they requested, which also included Walker paying Elza's mother, Pamela Phillips, $1,220 in restitution.
Phillips spoke at the sentencing hearing, and described her 26-year-old son's death as devastating.
"It's the most horrific thing that ever happened to me," she said. "He was on his way to becoming a good member of society."
Phillips said Elza was in treatment. She railed against the people who police have said refused to let Elza's friend call for medical help when Elza overdosed.
"They (treated) my kid like he was a bag of trash," she said. "You just don't take a human life and throw it in an alley."
The background: Elza overdosed and died Jan. 21, 2015, at 316 Harding Court.
Graff has confirmed that Walker is expected to testify in federal court in Harrisburg against the three men indicted and said she is considered an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
"She was very truthful (to investigators)," Graff has said. "She feels very bad for what she did."
Dameon Lattimore and Yushonda Durant are charged with drug delivery resulting in death and selling drugs; Frederick Gladfelter 46, is accused of allowing them use his property to sell drugs. Gladfelter lived at the Harding Court address, police have said.
Lattimore was arrested in New York City, and Gladfelter was arrested in York, authorities said.
Durant is being sought by members of the U.S. Marshals Service, Sunday said this week. Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call 911.
Dragged to alley: The federal indictment alleges that Lattimore and Durant sold 100 grams of heroin and 280 grams of crack between November 2014 and February 2015.
It also states that someone to whom they sold drugs overdosed and died. York City Police have confirmed that victim was Elza.
Police have said people at the home stopped Justin Mays from calling police after Elza succumbed to crack-cocaine and heroin.
Instead, they dragged Elza into a snowy alley, where police found him dead, court documents state.
Walker apologized in court Monday, telling Elza's family, "I hope someday you will allow me to tell you what happened."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.