Woodbury teenagers Brian Phillip Norlander and Tara Fitzgerald had known each other for several years and had developed, in his words, a “special” relationship.
“I’ve never had a friend like her who I could confide in so deeply,” Norlander recalled Wednesday before being sentenced in Washington County District Court for selling Fitzgerald the synthetic drug that killed her.
Norlander sold Fitzgerald two doses of the dangerous hallucinogenic drug 25i-NBOMe — which he thought was LSD — for $10 apiece. The day before Fitzgerald died, on Jan. 10, 2014, Norlander drove her home from Woodbury High School, where they were juniors.
Fitzgerald told Norlander that she was planning to take the drug that weekend. Soon after she did, she began convulsing violently.
“The outcome has been the most horrible thing that I could ever imagine,” Norlander told Judge John McBride at Wednesday’s sentencing in Stillwater.
Norlander pleaded guilty to third-degree controlled substance crime, a felony, while a third-degree murder charge was dismissed.
McBride sentenced Norlander to a 21-month prison sentence that won’t be imposed unless he violates parole. Norlander also will spend 12 weekends in a juvenile detention center, perform 150 hours of community service, and pay $23,845 in restitution.
Prosecutor Kevin Mueller, of the Washington County attorney’s office, told the judge that numerous text messages exchanged before Tara’s death showed that Norlander viewed himself as a drug dealer.
“That evidence was overwhelming and it was damning,” Mueller said.
Defense attorney Tina Appleby said Norlander was a straight-A student and captain of the football team and “this was the sole time that this young man had anything to do with drugs.”
But McBride told Norlander his sale of drugs to Fitzgerald “was not the act of a victim but of a criminal,” and said Norlander could go to prison if he drinks even a single beer during probation.
“Here’s the thing — it’s up to you now. I hope you honor her life and I hope you give your life meaning beyond being a criminal,” the judge said.
In mid-February, another teenage defendant in the drug-selling chain, Sydney Claire Johnson, pleaded guilty for her role in Fitzgerald’s death and was sentenced.
Two adult defendants, who were 19 when charged last May, have been convicted and sentenced. Alexander Lee Claussen, of St. Cloud, was sent to prison in January. Cole Alexander Matenaer, of Woodbury, will serve a year in jail.
A fifth and final defendant, Alistair Berg, awaits further court action.