Drug dealer gets 6 years in prison for selling heroin laced with fentanyl that caused fatal overdose
Editor's note: This article was modified on Nov. 21, 2017, to clarify that it was Michael Litchfield who was arrested in July 2016.
PITTSFIELD — Through tears, Michael Litchfield said he regretted selling Shawn Filiault the drugs that killed him in February 2016, and he wished he had tried to get him some help instead.
Litchfield, 44, was sentenced to up to six years in prison Monday in connection with the death of Filiault, 39, who died after using heroin laced with fentanyl that he purchased from Litchfield and his wife, Kate Frissell.
The couple were charged a few months after Filiault's death.
Investigators retrieved evidence including heroin bags and cellphone data that traced the sale of the fatal dose back to the couple. That particular strain of heroin is believed to be responsible for a number of overdoses in the region last fall, including one fatality.
Frissell had developed a drug addiction, and when her local supplier was no longer an option, she was referred to a dealer in the Springfield area, according to Litchfield's attorney, Marc C. Vincelette.
Litchfield began accompanying her, not wanting to have her make those trips alone.
To support Frissell's habit, the couple began to sell to a small group of users and addicts, including Filiault, who learned the couple had a supply.
Based on text communications between the three, police estimate Filiault made about 41 purchases from the couple, either together or separately.
On the day of his death, Filiault returned to his mother's home after making his purchase and that afternoon said he was going upstairs to take a nap, but would be up about 3:30 p.m. for work.
When he was not up as expected, his mother went to his room where she found him, but believed he was suffering a heart attack.
Police and first responders were called and Filiault was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
A state medical examiner declared Filiault's death was an accidental overdose caused by acute fentanyl intoxication.
Investigators said heroin found in Filiault's room, in bags labeled "American Gangster," tested positive for fentanyl.
Filiault's father read a brief statement during the plea hearing.
He spoke of the stress the loss of their son has had on the family, and he said Litchfield's charges deserved a state prison sentence, alleging the couple continued to sell drugs even after Filiault's overdose death.
Litchfield was carrying heroin and was charged with intent to distribute when he was arrested in July 2016.
When he was arrested, Litchfield told police he was still under the impression Filiault had died of a heart attack as first suspected. He said he wasn't aware of the potency of the drug because he didn't use heroin.
Litchfield pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday to charges of manslaughter, conspiracy to violate drug laws and possession of heroin with the intent to distribute.
Judge John Agostini adopted the sentencing recommendation, of 3 1/2 to 6 years in prison, that was reached by Vincelette and First Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello.
Agostini agreed to pass along Vincelette's request that Litchfield serve his sentence at the Berkshire Jail and House of Correction, though that decision ultimately will be up to the Department of Corrections.
Litchfield was given credit for 501 days already served.
Frissell is facing the same charges; her case remains open.
Reach Bob Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter or 413-496-6249.
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