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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Judge sentences 18-year-old for role in drug death

[media-credit name=’YANA PASKOVA/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]heroin_yp_416[/media-credit]A Dane County judge sentenced 18-year-old Morgan Fenick Wednesday to serve one year in jail and seven years probation for the reckless homicide of former University of Wisconsin student Sarah Stellner.

Fenick received the sentence yesterday, almost one year after Stellner was pronounced dead last April in their Langdon Street apartment due to a heroin overdose — Fenick was charged with reckless homicide because she had injected Stellner, her best friend, with the heroin.

Though the incident happened when Fenick was 17 years old, prosecuting attorney Jason Hanson said by Wisconsin law, Fenick must be charged as an adult.


"The argument in favor of her receiving time of incarceration was that it was a significant event, the death of a young person," Hanson remarked.

In the time leading up to the incident, Stellner and Fenick received the heroin from Stellner's friend Sam Katz and Katz's friend Ryan Daley.

The court also sentenced Katz to five years probation with six months in jail and Daley to seven years of probation with two years in prison.

Lavinia Mull, who initially sold the heroin to Katz and Daley, is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Fenick was also recommended to an Alcohol Drug and Assessment program, and must seek and maintain full-time employment or education, or a combination of the two.

Additional probation conditions include urinalysis at an agent's discretion and no contact with the Stellner family except in writing or by the family's discretion.

Hanson said Fenick had the potential of facing up to 40 years in prison, but added her young age may have played in favor of a lighter sentence.

"It does play into what's appropriate for her by giving someone a chance with lengthy probation," Hanson said. "She's at an age where she could turn a corner and do good things."

According to the criminal complaint, Stellner, Fenick, Katz and Daley returned to Stellner and Fenick's apartment from Bullfeathers Bar.

Katz and Daley injected themselves with the heroin they had previously bought, and saved some for Stellner and Fenick because the girls had bought them drinks, the report states.

The next morning, police responded to calls from the Langdon Street apartment that a person wasn't breathing and had no pulse, and a Dane County coroner pronounced Stellner dead approximately 30 minutes after police arrived.

Attorney Paul Schwartz, Fenick's defense lawyer, said he pushed for Fenick to receive only probation without any jail time, but added he was not surprised with the judge's decision.

"I kind of expected her to get some jail time out of it, but I didn't expect as much as a year," he said.

Fenick is on "sent withheld" probation and she will be eligible to receive work release while serving her jail time.

According to UW Law School professor Krista Ralston, such specifications of Fenick's sentence means Fenick will be allowed to leave jail for possible work purposes.

But if Fenick breaks parole while on probation, Ralston said the court can reconsider the sentence, which may have been recommended through Fenick's pre-sentence investigation.

"The court may have reached [the sentence] on an agreement … based on those recommendations," Ralston said. "They get assessed on a personal and criminal basis … and formulate their rules based on that."

When Fenick answered questions at the pre-sentence investigation, Hanson noted she said she "wasn't sure" if she was going to abandon her drug-using lifestyle.

"To some extent she was trying to be honest, but it really wasn't the best answer," Hanson said.

Both Hanson and Schwartz agreed the entire case was very tragic.

"I hope it sends [a message] particularly to the people in the campus area," Hanson said. "This stuff isn't harmless. The drugs do really cause pain and can cause people to die. It's horrible beyond words."

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