The mother of Rick Glass remembers him as a highly intelligent, witty, compassionate person whose smile lit up a room.
Glass at age 35 had battled addiction, spent 19 months in drug recovery, then relapsed, Bobette Glass of Neshannock Township shared Thursday afternoon.
“He had made choices,” she said, “but he did not choose to die.”
Renee Marich, 45, accused of furnishing the fentanyl that killed Glass, was sentenced to six to 15 years in a state correctional institution, the result a plea agreement reached in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.
Marich’s conviction is a first in Lawrence County for a defendant who has been successfully prosecuted for a drug delivery resulting in death, Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa commented Thursday.
Glass had gone to dinner with his parents the night of April 21, 2017, then went out for awhile. The next morning, his father found him dead of a drug overdose in the basement of their Neshannock Township home.
The Lawrence County courts were preparing to select a jury Monday for Marich’s trial in the case, but the former Lincoln Avenue resident agreed to a plea offer late Wednesday afternoon. She was represented in the case by assistant public defenders Dennis Elisco and Brad Olson. Her trial was scheduled to commence Aug. 17, a week after jury selection.
Common Pleas President Judge Dominick Motto approved her plea Thursday and sentenced Marich immediately afterward. She has been in the Lawrence County jail since May 20, 2017, on drug-related charges filed during the death investigation. Those offenses stemmed from a search of her residence by Neshannock Township police, where they found 10 stamp bags of pure fentanyl.
She was charged with Glass’ death on April 20, 2018.
Assistant district attorney William Flannery, who prosecuted the case, said the plea was negotiated before the courts sent out the notices for the jury to report on Monday.
“We were trying to be sensitive to calling jurors out for no reason,” he said, in light of precautions the courts are taking regarding COVID-19 restrictions.
Marich had pled guilty Dec. 6, 2017, to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in the drug case, and she had been sentenced Jan. 4, 2018, to 23 1/2 months in the Lawrence County jail. Her sentence was about to expire at the time of her plea Thursday.
The Neshannock Township police concluded through their investigation that Glass had used the fentanyl he bought from Marich, believing it was heroin, and it caused his overdose death.
An autopsy confirmed he died of a fentanyl overdose, and paperwork completed by forensic pathologist Todd Lukasevic of Beaver County stated that the fentanyl in Glass’ system was four times higher than the lethal dosage.
The Neshannock police had traced the phone number of the drug sale to Marich’s phone, which they seized in searching her apartment.
Lamancusa and Flannery both praised the thoroughness of the Neshannock police in their investigation into Glass’ death.
Marich’s attorneys had filed an interlocutory (pre-trial) appeal to get a ruling from the judge on the admissibility of the evidence of text messaging and phone conversations, Lamancusa explained. The filing claimed the evidence was insufficient to prove the case. Motto denied the appeal in common pleas court, and the case went to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
“The superior court ruled in the commonwealth’s favor and sent it back to common pleas court for trial,” he said.
Lamancusa said he and Flannery had met with Glass’ family about a possible plea arrangement, and when Marich indicated Wednesday that she wanted to plead, “we insisted that she plead to the highest charge against her, which was drug delivery resulting in death.”
“The investigation by Neshannock Township police was as determined as it was thorough,” he said. “They did a fantastic job of bringing a very difficult set of facts to a successful conclusion.
“These cases are extremely difficult to prosecute, because it’s challenging to prove that the drug that killed the person was the actual drug delivered by the defendant,” he explained. “Attorney Flannery and Neshannock police chief John Rand spent hundreds of hours sifting through phone calls, text messages and witness interviews to prove the case. This is another fine example of the quality law enforcement we are fortunate to have in Lawrence County.”
Flannery shifted the praise onto the Neshannock police and the district attorney’s drug task force, which included New Castle police officers, as “an exceptional combined effort.”
“We litigated that from every probable way,” he said. “I’m happy with the result.”
Both of Glass’ parents, his sister, Marlie D. and his brother-in-law, Brian Stein, gave statements in court before Marich was sentenced about how his death has impacted their family, Lamancusa said.
Marich sat quietly in the courtroom and did not offer a statement.
“I don’t know that there’s much worse of a loss to a mother or father than a child,” Bobette Glass said afterward. “Rick made a choice and she made a choice, and I had to choose to turn in information that I found to be unsettling to me.”
“Rick did not make a choice to die, she made a choice to give him something, and our families have to live with the consequences of those choices,” she said. “You grieve for the loss today, and the loss of future events that will never take place for you, that you will never be able to share with him.”
Bobette said she doesn’t know how Rick became acquainted with Marich. Her name showed up in his phone just several days before he died, she said. “I had no idea what the connection was.”
“We’re a family who always try to look for the best in every situation,” Glass’ mother continued. “Our family is extremely close, we all work together in a family business, and we believe that forgiveness is important, because we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. The lack of forgiveness in this case would only have hurt us and would have made this tragedy harder, I believe.”
When the district attorney approached the family about a plea offer, “I was OK with it, it was for the charge that we felt was fair to us, regarding the crime done to my son,” she said. “I couldn’t have settled for anything less. This has been 3 1/2 years in coming.”
“We think it’s time now to step up and start trying to help our town clean up the drug activity here,” she said, “and hopefully, this was the first step in sending that message to do that.”