State prosecutors have dropped charges against an Anchorage man who allegedly injected a teenage girl with a fatal dose of heroin just before Christmas in 2011, opting to let federal prosecutors pursue the case.
Sean Warner, a 28-year-old Navy veteran, shot up 14-year-old Jena Dolstad at her request Dec. 22, 2011, according to the state charging document. Someone found Dolstad face down in vomit the next morning, and she died six days later at a hospital, police said. Warner was also charged with injecting another girl who was 17 years old.
City police filed charges against Warner and jailed him, and a state grand jury indicted him on charges of manslaughter and evidence tampering. But federal authorities were also taking a close look at the case, Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion said.
This August, a federal grand jury indicted Warner on charges of heroin distribution resulting in death, as well as distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of an elementary school -- Turnagain Elementary -- and selling to someone younger than 21. The indictment added Max Jewett, 36, as a defendant facing the same charges.
"The reason we ultimately dismissed our charges is the feds had expanded the investigation to include Jewett as a supplier," said Campion, the state prosecutor. "There was a follow-up investigation. They had an interest in the drug trafficking and the larger network."
Warner could not be tried in state court for the same bad behavior as in the federal charges, Campion said. A state prosecutor already on the case, Regan Williams, was designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to help in federal court, Campion said.
"We're still going to seek justice on behalf of the family, it's just going to happen in federal court," Campion said.
The charges for which Warner and Jewett are indicted carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. And in the federal system, defendants are not eligible for parole.
By contrast, the state manslaughter charge Warner was facing carried a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. He was also granted bail in state court, but denied bail in federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay said.
"This is not a good turn of events for this defendant," Sayers-Fay said. "The big thing is the addition of a second defendant, going up the chain of responsibility."
Sayers-Fay said she did not know if charges could be coming for others in that chain.
"It really depends on what position these defendants will take," she said. "There's a lot at stake here, and I think it's just too early to say whether the investigation is going to allow us to pursue it further."