Girl convicted for role in drug death Westminster teen guilty of participating in sale of heroin in fatal overdose


A 17-year-old Westminster High senior was convicted yesterday in juvenile court for her role in selling heroin to Liam O'Hara, a 15-year-old schoolmate who died of an overdose in January.

The defendant, who is not being identified because she was not charged as an adult, burst into sobs moments after Juvenile Master Peter M. Tabatsko ordered her to be held at the Thomas Waxter Children's Center in Laurel until her sentencing June 29.

As Tabatsko was denying her attorney's request to let her remain on home detention until sentencing, which would have allowed her to attend graduation ceremonies, the teen-ager turned toward her mother in the first row of the courtroom and blurted, "How can he do this to me?"

The courtroom erupted in shouting.

As family and friends yelled, "We love you" to the girl, her father confronted prosecutor David P. Daggett in the aisle. Daggett loudly told the girl's father, "Get out of my face."

Deputy sheriffs and court bailiffs moved quickly to clear spectators from the courtroom, and escorts were provided to state's witnesses and family and friends of O'Hara.

Attorney Mark Van Bavel argued that his client took no active part in buying or selling the lethal overdose, but Tabatsko disagreed.

By her own statement to police, the defendant went to Baltimore to buy heroin with Kristopher Olenginski, her 16-year-old boyfriend, Tabatsko said.

Olenginski was charged as an adult in Liam O'Hara's death.

"It is clear from testimony that they came back, went to Burger King, had a discussion of the sale price and a transaction took place in a car on the parking lot," Tabatsko said. "To have us believe that [she] was an innocent bystander strains all credulity."

Tabatsko enumerated nine charges against the girl, finding her guilty of distribution of heroin, conspiracy to distribute heroin, possession of a controlled substance and reckless endangerment.

Citing insufficient evidence, Tabatsko dismissed charges of conspiracy to possess heroin, conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment, hindering a police investigation, conspiracy to obstruct justice and being an accessory after the fact.

A conspiracy charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin was merged with the charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin.

"In today's society, it's incredible that anyone cannot believe that heroin is not endangering, and being involved [in the purchase and sale of heroin] is reckless endangerment," Tabatsko said.

"Without question, Liam O'Hara's death was a terrible, terrible tragedy," he said, but heroin distribution is "incredibly dangerous" even if no one dies.

Pub Date: 5/30/98

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