A drug dealer will serve up to 10 years in prison for selling a fatal batch of fentanyl to a Columbia man who overdosed last year in a convenience store.
Victor Nelson Virola, of Columbia, pleaded guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter, drug-dealing, and related counts, in exchange for a 4-to-10-year prison sentence.
Virola sold baggies of what was perceived as heroin to 21-year-old Kody McKain in September 2015. In reality, McKain bought, and used, pure fentanyl, a synthetic morphine substitute.
McKain died Sept. 5 in a bathroom of a Columbia Turkey Hill store.
Columbia police and the Lancaster County Drug Task Force determined Virola sold the fatal batch to McKain. During a raid at Virola’s North Third Street home, detectives found additional amounts of pure fentanyl.
Virola admitted to selling to McKain for some time.
In court Thursday, McKain’s family told County Judge James Cullen that McKain didn’t deserve to die.
Virola was sentenced to the maximum allowable jail term (2 ½ to 5 years) on the involuntary manslaughter charge – as requested by McKain’s family - according to Assistant District Attorney Kevin McGarry, who prosecuted the case.
“Heroin and opioid abuse is a scourge on the community,” McGarry said in court, “made worse when dealers pass off fentanyl as heroin, even though it’s 50 to 100 times more potent.”
It is believed to be the first prosecution in Lancaster County regarding a fentanyl-induced death.
There have been charges filed in other heroin-related deaths.
“We take these cases very seriously and will do all we can to hold the dealer responsible,” District Attorney Craig Stedman said after the sentencing hearing.
“We have a public-health crisis on our hands as more and more people are dying from heroin and heroin mixtures,” Stedman added. “We need to do more on all fronts: treatment, education, aggressive prosecution of dealers, as well as cutting off the flow of heroin into our country.”
Columbia police Detective Matthew Leddy filed charges.
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