Teen who admitted to selling heroin that led to overdose death sentenced to federal prison

Composite image with background photo by Peter Csaza/iStock/Getty Images Plus, inset is booking photo of Gadge Christensen, 20, of Hurricane, taken in Washington County, Utah, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A 20-year-old man charged with negligent homicide following an overdose death in Washington City last year was sentenced to serve 37 months in a federal prison for drug distribution during a hearing held in U.S. District Court last week, while his state charges were dropped.

Gadge Leelynd Christensen, of Hurricane, booking photo taken at time of arrest in Washington County Jan. 25, 2019 | File photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Gadge Leelynd Christensen, 20, of Hurricane, was charged with one count of distribution of heroin, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to documents filed in federal court April 20. The defendant has been in federal custody since Feb. 1. 

Under the terms of the stipulated plea agreement signed May 6, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to serve 37 months in federal prison during a video appearance before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer June 3. Upon his release, the record indicates, the court ordered 36-months of post-prison supervision. 

The federal case was filed in the wake of a death that was reported to police Jan. 7, 2019, when responding officers found drug paraphernalia and heroin residue near the corpse. Shortly thereafter, detectives with the Washington County Drug Task Force served a narcotics search warrant on Christensen’s residence in Hurricane and detained the suspect.

After being questioned by detectives at the jail, Christensen, who was 19 at the time, admitted to selling heroin to the individual who died weeks before and said during the interview that he knew the drug was deadly, explaining to the detectives that he had a friend who overdosed on heroin a couple years ago, according to the probable cause statement written in support of his arrest.

The report also revealed that when detectives asked about the person who died Jan. 7, Christensen admitted he knew about the death and that he had provided the heroin that led to the overdose. He was later charged in 5th District Court with one class A misdemeanor count of negligent homicide and a second-degree felony charge of distribution of a controlled substance Jan. 28, 2019.

The state charges were scheduled to be dismissed during a hearing held in 5th District Court Thursday as part of the federal plea agreement, one that included a stipulation that all state cases be dismissed once Christensen was sentenced in federal court.

The federal record also shows the defendant will likely be housed at a federal facility located as close to Washington County as possible, to facilitate family visitation. Christensen was also ordered to participate in the Residential Drug Abuse Program – an intensive nine-month, 500-hour substance abuse rehabilitation program offered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for those inmates who qualify, as well as vocational training.

Christensen remains in Washington County under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Office until he is transferred to a federal prison facility.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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