What started out as a night of drug fun with friends, ended with an 18-year-old’s death.
Now one of the friends who secured the drugs for the kids to experiment will spend the next 12 1/2 years in prison.
A federal judge sentenced Wesley Sweeney for providing a synthetic compound that resulted in death of one buddy and the hospitalization of another in Grand Forks.
Prosecutors charged 11 people in the wake of the Grand Forks synthetic drug conspiracy, Sweeney is the first to be sentenced for causing death and bodily injury.
Sweeney admitted buying two hallucinogens on June 10 from Adam Budge, and then providing the drugs to Bjerk and the 15-year-old. The friends pooled their money together to use drugs, and Sweeney was the one who purchased them.
About 5:45 a.m., June 11, Bjerk was found dead on a nearby lawn. C.J. and Sweeney, who also took the drugs, were found nearby, disoriented and incoherent, and were hospitalized.
A plea deal spared Sweeney from the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers has identified Andrew Spofford, 22, as the “hobby chemist,” who bought chemicals from Europe, Asia and Houston to make the hallucinogens.
In less than a week, the drugs killed two and led to serious health issues for a handful of others, including juveniles.
Elijah Stai was the other person who died. He was 17-years-old.
The courtroom was emotional, as families of Sweeney and Bjerk, once close friends, were now were torn apart by the tragedy.
Keith and Debbie Bjerk said they warned their son to stay away from Sweeney last spring because they saw him as a bad influence with a criminal record. But their warning wasn’t enough.
Christian questioned why he had to stay away from Sweeney. Bjerk said during his statement. “I think we all know why now.”
But this was a night out of drug fun for all involved. Sweeney’s family maintains that their son was not a criminal but a drug addict, and he was merely the guy who was able to get his hands on the drugs.
They also maintained that their son was lied to, regarding the exact substance.
Sweeney’s attorney, David Dusek, told Erickson that Sweeney did not sell any drugs to Bjerk or C.J., but took the drugs himself, too, in a tragic “nightmare,” that started with three friends partying.
Sweeney put the powdered hallucinogen in “lines” on a table and offered it to anyone, ingesting some himself. “He didn’t encourage anyone else to take it,” Dusek said.
This is a reminder to parents and kids the nature of the responsibility regarding obtaining drugs and alcohol.
The kid who merely makes the run, could be the kid that pays a steep price.
In this case, nobody lost more than the Bjerk family. They lost a son.
But now the Sweeney family will to spend the next several years waiting for their son to be released from prison.
Whether it is with alcohol or drugs, teens need to realize the severity of their actions.
Teens often do not think of the health consequences when buying or using drugs. They may fear the legal consequences, but they are thinking possession busts only.
There’s no way Wesley Sweeney envisioned that he’d be facing 20 years in prison when he made that drug run.
Our thoughts are with all of the families involved in this terrible tragedy.