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Man gets prison in Ernest Borough drug death

| Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A former Indiana County man who delivered methadone that caused his girlfriend's overdose death in 2011 as she was being discharged from Indiana Regional Medical Center was sentenced on Friday to serve 1 12 to five years in a state prison.

President Judge William Martin scolded Aaron Matthew Sandak, 38, of Johnstown, formerly of Ernest Borough, after listening to family members of Megan E. Prugh, 29, contend that Sandak has shown no remorse.

“As a result of your actions, we unfortunately have a life lost. It's not like a youthful indiscretion. ... You're not 19 years old; you're 37 and have been in this world long enough to use some common sense,” Martin said.

A pre-sentence investigation showed that Sandak has continued to abuse alcohol and drugs since the death of Prugh, a beautician in Ernest who graduated from Kittanning Beauty School, Martin said.

Minutes before the sentence was imposed, the judge heard from the victim's parents, Elderton Mayor Larry Prugh and Linda Prugh; and her brother, Jeffrey, a police officer in Knox Borough in Clarion County.

“You're a coward ... running out of the hospital after finding out Megan was dead and then letting us hang for three months. You've devastated our family mentally, physically and emotionally,” Larry Prugh told Sandak.

Megan Prugh, a 2000 graduate of Shannock Valley High School and a member of Elderton Presbyterian Church in Armstrong, was preparing to be discharged hours before Sandak delivered methadone to her hospital room, said state police at Indiana. Prugh texted Sandak and asked him to deliver the drug, police said.

Indiana County Coroner Michael Baker said authorities investigating Prugh's sudden death became suspicious upon discovering methadone in her system. The drug is used to help opiate-dependent people manage addiction.

Hospital records indicated methadone was not administered to Prugh in the three days before her death. She was being treated for an undisclosed condition.

Before he was arrested in February in Ocean City, Md., police had been tracking Sandak's whereabouts for months through Ann Arundel and Cumberland counties in Maryland and Cape Charles, Va.

Linda Prugh wiped tears from her cheeks with a tissue as she pleaded for the maximum sentence “so he can't do this to anyone else's family.”

“He doesn't act sorry or remorseful,” she said, despite causing the loss of her “beautiful and thoughtful” daughter.

Jeffrey Prugh said he believes a short sentence would allow Sandak to continue his drug abuse. “I don't believe he'll ever be a valuable member of society again. No sentence will bring back Megan, but I believe if he's out, he'll do something like this again,” he said.

Afterward, Jeffrey Prugh said he was pleased with Martin's sentence.

Larry Prugh praised the work of Baker, state police and District Attorney Patrick Dougherty's office during the investigation. He said the family agreed to the plea bargain, which called for charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and criminal use of a communication facility to be dropped in exchange for the plea to the felony charge of delivery of a controlled substance.

Sandak declined comment before he was sentenced.

“He's very sorry, and he's expressed that before. He loved her,” said defense attorney Robert Muir of Indiana.

Martin ordered Sandak to serve five years on probation after his release from prison and to pay the Prugh family $12,591 in restitution, plus $2,479 in fines and costs.

Paul Peirce is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

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