Kenai man sentenced to 4 years prison for manslaughter

A Kenai man has been sentenced to four years in prison for dealing drugs that led to the death of a Soldotna-area man in 2015.

Richard Paul Morrison, 38, received a sentence of four years for manslaughter by controlled substance in Kenai Superior Court during a Thursday hearing. He will serve the sentence consecutively to the 63 months he received for a federal court conviction in September related to dealing methamphetmines and heroin.

Morrison was initially arrested in January 2016 on the drug charges after a multi-agency investigation. The state case was a separate incident, for which he was arrested and charged in June 2016. The charges stated that Soldotna resident Jeremy Vandever had died of a drug overdose in December 2015, directly related to methadone Morrison gave him.

As part of a plea deal in relation to the federal charges, Morrison agreed to plead guilty to the manslaughter charge and avoid a trial. Superior Court Judge Anna Moran handed down the sentence Thursday, a week after Morrison formally changed his plea.

Morrison, who attended the hearing telephonically from the Anchorage Jail, did not make any statements during the sentencing.

Morrison’s attorney from the public defender’s office, Joe Montague, said at the hearing Morrison and Vandever were friends and that he is “extremely remorseful” about Vandever’s death. Morrison completed most of a drug rehabilitation program before he was arrested in June, he said.

“(Drug abuse) is one of the things the community is dealing with on a community-wide basis,” he said.

During the hearing, the Vandever’s widow said she hoped Morrison could take this opportunity to change. Moran read a letter from Morrison’s substance abuse counselor, saying he had behaved well in rehabilitation and completed the majority of his program. She said she hoped he would take this opportunity to turn his life around.

“Chemical and substance abuse is of epidemic proportions here on the Kenai,” she said. “….This is one of the consequences of substance abuse — they don’t know what they’re getting, what they’re taking … (here) we have an incredibly tragic circumstance between two friends.”

Morrison received four years in prison and is eligible for jail time credit for the time he spent in rehabilitation.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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