CHARLESTON -- A man who admitted selling heroin was at least "complicit" in the death of another man who died of an overdose if he wasn't directly responsible for the death.
That was the conclusion a judge reached Tuesday (July 22, 2014) in sentencing Kendall H. Wilford to eight years in prison for selling the drug to a police cooperative in November 2012.
Coles County Circuit Judge Mitchell Shick said he was "not losing sight" of the fact that Wilford wasn't charged in connection with the death of Hunter Robison earlier that month.
However, the judge added, evidence that Wilford supplied the heroin on which Robison overdosed "goes to his character" and was a factor in deciding on a prison sentence instead of probation.
Wilford, 23, pleaded guilty in May to a charge of delivery of a controlled substance that accused him of selling heroin on Nov. 20, 2012.
His address on record at the time of his arrest was on Oklahoma Avenue in Mattoon but evidence presented Tuesday indicated he was living at an apartment on Lafayette Avenue, also in Mattoon, where the heroin sales also took place.
Much of Tuesday's hearing centered on the prosecution's attempt to tie Wilford to the death of Robison, who was 18 and who died at Sunrise Apartments, 1817 S. Ninth St., Mattoon, on Nov. 3, 2012, after using heroin and drinking alcohol.
Tyler Jordan testified about how he and Robison first met at a Mattoon tavern, the now-closed Toaster's Pub, and later contacted Wilford to arrange a heroin buy.
Jordan said they both bought and used heroin then went to his girlfriend's residence in Sunrise Apartments for the night. He said he found Robison was unresponsive when he tried to wake him the following morning.
Jordan admitted he gave a different account to police at first but said "my conscious got to me." He said he then agreed with police to make the controlled buy on Nov. 20 that led to the charge against Wilford.
Shick then noted that the controlled buy meant Wilford continued to sell heroin after Robinson died.
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In a statement Wilford gave to the judge, he claimed he only sold heroin to Jordan so any drugs Robison received weren't from him. Shick said it was still apparent that Wilford was the source of the heroin, though he also called Jordan "complicit" in Robison's death.
Also, Shick noted, Wilford was on probation for a burglary conviction at the time and also was unsuccessful at treatment and other pretrial services after his arrest for the heroin sale.
"You have not yet accepted that you're an addict," Shick said. "That shows a mindset. You aren't seeing things clearly."
In his statement, Wilford said he "took full responsibility" but added that he wasn't present with Robison died.
"If I was there, I would have done all I could to help Hunter," he said.
The charge to which Wilford pleaded guilty required a prison sentence of three to 14 years unless he was found to be eligible for a counseling program called Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities.
Wilford was deemed eligible and defense attorney Ron Tulin recommended that as part of a probation sentence. Assistant State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings asked for a nine-year prison sentence, the maximum to which he agreed when Wilford pleaded guilty.
Tulin argued that Jordan might have been the one who actually provided Robison with heroin and noted that the autopsy showed that alcohol contributed to his death.
"There is no evidence to show Hunter Robison died as a result of anything Kendall Wilford did," Tulin said, adding that the case had been turned into a "so-called murder."
Hitchings mentioned Wilford's lack of success with probation and treatment. He said there was "one reason only" for Jordan and Robison to contact Wilford, and that was because they knew he could supply them with heroin.
"His conduct has gone beyond that of an addict," Hitchings said. "It's to the point of preying on others in the community."
Shick agreed to recommend Wilford to a prison system drug treatment program but it will be up to prison officials whether to admit him. The judge also gave him credit on his sentence for just more than a year he was jailed but didn't add credit for time spent in pretrial treatment.
Robison's death also led to city of Mattoon liquor violation cases against the owner of Toasters Pub and one of the tavern’s bartenders.
Contact Fopay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-238-6858.
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