Sentencing Highlights Rise in Overdose Deaths

Sentencing Highlights Rise in Overdose Deaths

A man who sold heroin to a San Diego woman, leading to her fatal overdose, was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in local prison. [TWEET THIS]

Marc Gressingh, 36, pleaded guilty on June 13, 2017, to selling heroin and a prior conviction for narcotics sales. A judge split the eight year sentence into one year of custody and seven years of mandatory supervision.

The sentencing comes as more people are dying each year in San Diego County from accidental overdose or substance abuse intoxication of opioids, part of a national epidemic.

Deaths in the County from opioid abuse have roughly doubled in the last 15 years.

“An addiction to prescription drug opiates often leads people to begin abusing heroin, which is cheaper and easier to find,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We’re responding to the opioid addiction crisis that is claiming the very lives of so many in our community and stealing the promise of their future by combating this issue on multiple fronts.”

[RELATED: The DA’s Office is taking a closer look at the fatal prescription drug abuse epidemic and what’s being done to fight it, in a series of short videos.]

Today’s sentencing is the culmination of a criminal case that began the morning of March 11, 2016. The San Diego Police Department responded to a reported death at a residence in San Diego. Paramedics on scene tried to revive the victim, Rebecca Mercurio, 31, however their efforts were unsuccessful and Ms. Mercurio died as a result of a heroin overdose. Based on initials reports that Ms. Mercurio had purchased the heroin in the East County area, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department took over the investigation into her death. After an extensive and lengthy investigation, Sheriff’s Department Det. Jacob Sanchez was able to determine the defendant had sold Ms. Mercurio the lethal heroin at a taco shop in East County on the night of March 10, 2016.

“Prosecutions like this send the message that when you sell heroin to another human being, you are literally providing them with toxic poison that can slow their breathing to the point of death. We also focus on prevention through education and on providing important programs that work to get defendants who have substance abuse issues help through Collaborative Court programs like Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court and Veterans Court,” DA Stephan said.

According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner, the increase in heroin deaths seen since 2005/2006 has continued, and heroin was the most common drug seen in those between the ages of 20 and 29 over the past five years. In 2015, 90 people died of heroin doses in San Diego County. [TWEET THIS]

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