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Conspiracy added in teen's drug death

Chuck Biedka
| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2002

KITTANNING: Conspiracy to deliver illicit drugs has been added to third-degree murder charges for three people accused of giving heroin and alcohol to a 17-year-old Manor boy who died last month.

Jeremy Calhoun "Chico" Thomas, 22, and Scott Dereck Boyer, 19, both of Elderton, and Sarah Beth Bureau, 18, of Johnson Avenue, Kittanning, also are charged with drug possession with intent to deliver and corruption of minors.

They are charged with giving powdered heroin and alcohol to Zachary Zion last month.

Zion, who would have been a Ford City High School senior this fall, was found dead Aug. 3 in an East Franklin hotel room.

A preliminary hearing for the three Friday was continued. Addition of the conspiracy to deliver illicit drugs charge prompted defense attorneys to ask for more time to prepare their cases.

"This is not amending the charges. This is a whole new charge," said attorney Ron Valasek, of Lower Burrell, who represents Boyer. "Now we have to prepare a case with a new charge for three people who have little in common other than being in the same place."

Pittsburgh attorney Jim Ecker, who represents Thomas, and Bureau's attorney, Harvey Daniels of Monroeville, joined in the objection.

District Justice Samuel Goldstrohm of Rural Valley, agreed and asked the attorneys to talk with his staff to schedule a hearing.

"We're saying there was an illegal agreement to deliver drugs to Zion," Armstrong County Deputy District Attorney George Kepple said Friday.

Kepple said it was a "simple oversight" that state police didn't file the conspiracy charge with other charges, Kepple said. "After review, we determined it was necessary to amend charges."

Earlier this week Goldstrohm reduced $250,000 bond for Thomas, Boyer and Bureau from $250,000 to $25,000 and the three were released.

Three others are also charged in the Zion case.

Patricia Diane Crawford, 38, of Kittanning, her daughter, Natasha Mae Visnesky, 18, of Kittanning, and Philip M. Reed, 18, of Dayton, are charged with selling or giving alcohol to Zion and corruption of a minor.

Bond was initially set at $50,000 for Crawford, Visnesky and Reed. Goldstrohm reduced it to $25,000.

Crawford had posted bond before Friday. Visnesky and Reed remained in the county jail until Friday when Goldstrohm accepted a request to reduced bond.

Visnesky and Reed were released on their recognizance after the three told Kepple and their attorney,

Dennis P. Zawacki, of Pittsburgh, they would testify for the state.

Crawford, Visnesky and Reed waived charges to court so when the preliminary hearing continues, it only will involve Thomas, Boyer and Bureau.

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