Two jailed for buying lethal dose of heroin

Published 10:25 am Monday, December 14, 2015

Two Dowagiac men will spend the next several months behind bars for purchasing a dosage of heroin that cost one of the buyers’ fathers his life.

R Smith

Robert Smith

D Stark

David Stark

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced Robert Eugene Smith and David Lee Stark both to 150 days in Cass County Jail and two years of probation Friday, during their sentencing hearing in county court. The two were punished on charges of conspiracy to possess heroin and possession of heroin. Both men pleaded guilty to the counts during an appearance in court on Oct. 21.

According to the judge, the charges stem from an incident that occurred more than two years ago, on Oct. 4, 2013. On that day, Smith and Stark drove with the former’s father, Roger Chaline, to South Bend, after Chaline had asked them to purchase some heroin he could use.

“At the time you did this, based on the information provided to the court in the pre-sentence report, your father already appeared to be seriously intoxicated from drinking and using prescription medication,” Dodge said. “Never the less, you acceded to his request.”

After purchasing and giving the drugs to Chaline, Smith and Stark took him back his home in Dowagiac, where they had to carry him to bed, Dodge said.

Twenty-four hours later, Chaline’s wife found him unresponsive. He had died some point in his drug-induced slumber. An autopsy later discovered the man died of mixed drug toxicity, caused by a combination of heroin and hydrocodone, Dodge said.

“This whole affair is really tragic,” Dodge said while addressing Smith. “The obvious conclusion is, even though you didn’t intend it, you indirectly facilitated your own father’s death by enabling him to get heroin and ingest it. I understand that he wanted it, and he took it, but he’s dead as a result.”

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik asked the judge to impose six months jail time on top of the probation recommended by the state to both defendants in this case.

“I’m certain this was not his [Smith’s] intent,” Machnik said. “But he has to live with the results of his actions.”

Both Smith and Stark told the judge they had not been involved with drugs since the tragedy two years ago, and have stayed out of further trouble with the legal system.

“I have to live with these consequences for the rest of my life,” Smith said.

Dodge decided to impose added jail time to both men’s sentences, saying that he has sent three other men off to prison within the last year for similarly delivering heroin to people who later overdosed as a result.

“Who knows how this could have changed if you didn’t take him to South Bend to get heroin or if you had taken him to the ER, which it looked like he needed to go to because he was in pretty bad shape when he was brought back to Dowagiac,” Dodge said. “He ended up dying in bed of an overdose.”

Smith was given 61 days credit for time already served; Stark was given three days credit for time already served.