03 Jul DeBary man charged with murder pleads, gets 5 years for woman’s fentanyl death – News – Daytona Beach News-Journal Online
DAYTONA BEACH — A DeBary man was sentenced to five years in prison for a woman’s overdose death as part of deal with a prosecutor who said the victim’s family didn’t want the man to go to prison at all.
Hunter Romaine, 24, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to the five years, according to the terms of the agreement. He received credit for 300 days time served in the county jail.
Romaine had faced a possible sentence of life in prison when he was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder by a grand jury in the drug overdose death of 33-year-old Ashley Barrett.
[READ MORE: Trail of Death: Opioid overdoses rising in Volusia
Assistant State Attorney Ryan Will said during the hearing before Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano that Barrett’s family did not wish to see Romaine sent to prison and would like to see him get him drug treatment. Will also said that Romaine had cooperated in the investigation.
When Zambrano asked whether there was any probation, Will said no that he did not think Romaine would be a good candidate for probation and did not want to set him up for a long prison sentence should he violate probation on a drug offense.
Will read a statement from Barrett’s mother, Patricia Barrett, who said it would be too difficult to attend the hearing and that she had endured a great deal of pain due to her daughter’s death.
“The mother cannot wrap her head around the fact that there wasn’t an immediate call for help when Ashley passed away,” Will said.
“She understands that Mr. Romaine did what he could to help her daughter but that he was primarily concerned with cleaning up his house and not being the subject of additional criminal charges for drugs,” Will said.
She believes her daughter would have done everything she could to save Romaine had the roles been reversed, Will said.
“She understands that Mr. Romaine is a good person and that she has crime for Mr. Romaine and his predicament. She cries thinking about him going to jail and not being around his daughter and not being able to be the father that he wanted to be.”
Romaine answered routine questions from the judge but declined to make a statement. Romaine was represented by attorney Michael Grieco, who after the hearing, praised Will’s understanding on the case.
A handcuffed Romaine nodded to several of his family members as he was fingerprinted before being escorted out of the courtroom at the S. James Foxman Justice Center.
His family members declined comment after the hearing.
Barrett died on Feb. 1, 2018. She had called Romaine and asked him to pick her up to do drugs at his house on Cypress Drive, investigators said.
Romaine bought heroin and cocaine containing fentanyl and gave it to Barrett. Barrett then overdosed but Romaine did not immediately call for help.
Instead Romaine cleaned up the scene, put away the drugs and paraphernalia and then contacted a neighbor. Only then did Romaine call for medical help.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said last year after the indictment that the delay caused Barrett’s overdose death.
Romaine was the second person locally charged in a drug overdose death and the second person to enter a plea in such a case.
[READ MORE: Flagler drug dealer faces murder charge in overdose death.]
Steven Montilla, 33, of Sanford, was the first person in Volusia County to be charged with first-degree murder when he was indicted by a grand jury on June 25, 2018 in the overdose death of 34-year-old Jacqueline Griggs, who was a single mother of a then 3-year-old girl.
Montilla became the first person last month in Volusia and Flagler Counties to resolve charges in such a case. Montilla entered a no contest plea to a lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in prison.
The first accused drug dealer in Volusia and Flagler Counties to face a murder was Joseph Colon, 36, of Palm Coast.
In February 2018, Colon was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Savannah DeAngelis, a Palm Coast resident who died in November 2017. Colon was accused of selling DeAngelis heroin laced with fentanyl, police said. Colon’s case remains open.
There are at least two other area cases of defendants facing murder charges in drug overdoses: Sergio Perez, 44, of Deltona is charged with one count of first-degree murder. Melanie Cunningham, 28, of Deltona is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office responded to 59 overdose deaths in 2018. Through June 20 of this year, the office had responded to 21 overdose deaths this year.
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