A Maplewood woman who sold heroin that led to the overdose deaths of five men pleaded guilty Friday in the last two cases.
But Beverly Burrell, 33, won’t serve any additional prison time for her guilty plea to two counts of third-degree murder in the deaths of Nick Petrick and Spencer Johnson.
Hennepin County District Judge Martha Holton Dimick sentenced Burrell to nearly 23 years in prison for the men’s deaths. But in keeping with a plea agreement struck with prosecutors, the judge ordered the term to be served concurrently with approximately 23 years Burrell is already serving for the three previous cases.
Petrick’s younger sister, Rebbecca Seifert, said afterward that she wanted Burrell to serve more time.
“I just want it over,” said Petrick’s mother, Julie Petrick. “It’s drug on for three years. Is [the sentence] fair to my son? Probably not.”
The five men died in separate incidents between 2015 and 2016. Authorities said the heroin was laced with fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that is far more potent than heroin.
Johnson’s family expressed forgiveness in victim-impact statements read aloud in court, and they left without comment.
“I don’t hold blame to Ms. Burrell for his substance abuse problem,” Johnson’s mother, Ann Perry, said in court. “If Spencer was able to speak, he’d be the first to forgive Ms. Burrell with no qualms.”
“It’s unprecedented that a drug dealer killed five young men,” said Ronnei’s mother, Colleen Ronnei, who founded the advocacy group Change the Outcome in the aftermath of her son’s death.
“Like a cold-blooded assassin,” said Peltier’s father, Kurt Peltier.
The Ronnei and Peltier families said they wanted to see more prison time, adding that they had been led to believe until recently that prosecutors were seeking to stack more time on top of Burrell’s previous sentences.
Burrell received separate sentences in Hennepin County for Ronnei’s and Tillitt’s deaths to run consecutively. She was later sentenced in Sherburne County in Peltier’s death, also to run consecutively to the Hennepin County terms.
Burrell’s attorney, Craig Cascarano, said she’s scheduled to be released from prison in 2031.
“Now, I feel that it’s just been averaged out, and that’s what our sons are worth,” Peltier’s mother, Carla Peltier, said through tears.
Hennepin County Attorney’s Office spokesman Chuck Laszewski said the Johnsons and Petricks were consulted before Friday’s plea deal. It also included an agreement from federal authorities not to pursue drug charges against Burrell.
“We were sure that based on appellate court rulings, that absent extraordinary circumstances, it was highly unlikely that we could have more than three consecutive sentences,” Laszewski said.
Tillitt’s father, Stephen Tillitt, said it wasn’t his place to comment on Friday’s sentencing.
“The fact that there are five young men that died now, all found to be victims of hers, that pattern shows indifference,” Stephen Tillitt said. “I, like the Johnsons, have hope for someone to be restored.”
In their victim-impact statements, the Johnson and Petrick families described their loved ones as caring men who got caught in the cycle of abuse.
Cascarano described the five victims in court as “co-conspirators.”
“We take objection to that term — co-conspirator,” said Ronnei’s father, David Ronnei.
When given a chance to address the court, Burrell declined, which didn’t sit well with the families, who said she’s never expressed remorse at previous sentencings despite Cascarano’s assertion Friday that she is “extremely remorseful.”
“No, not at this time,” Burrell replied when the judge asked if she had anything to say.