Man Charged in Connection With Overdose Death Case Sentenced Up to Twelve Years in State Prison

| November 24, 2020

CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – A man arrested following a multi-county drug investigation into the November 2018 overdose death of a Clarion man was sentenced to up to twelve years in state prison on Monday afternoon.

President Judge Sara J. Seidle-Patton on November 23 sentenced William A. Fourness Jr. to a minimum of six years up to a maximum of 12 years in state prison on one first-degree felony count of Drug Delivery Resulting In Death.

He will be given credit for 407 days of time served.

Fourness entered a guilty plea on the above charge on November 1, 2019, during a criminal pre-trial conference.

As a result of the plea agreement, the following charges were dismissed:

– Corrupt Organizations – Employee, Felony 1
– Conspire To Vio 911b1, 911b2, 911b3, Felony 1
– Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, Felony 3 (two counts)
– Endangering Welfare of Children – Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense, Felony 3
– Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, Felony (four counts)
– Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, Felony (three counts)
– Involuntary Manslaughter, Misdemeanor 1
– Possession of Controlled Substance, Misdemeanor (three counts)
– Use/Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Misdemeanor (two counts)

At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, District Attorney Drew Welsh noted that the plea agreement was for a minimum sentence of 84 months (seven years), which was a standard range sentence based on a prior record score of four. However, he noted he had agreed to consider requesting a shorter sentence if Fourness’s testimony in the trials for Aaron Ernest Johnson and Spencer Gene Rudolph was “exceptional.”

Welsh stated that while it was later found that Fourness’s prior record score was actually five rather than four, making a minimum of 84 months already a mitigated range sentence rather than the standard range, he would still be satisfied with a sentence of less than 84 months.

“I think that he was truthful and honest about his involvement in all of this,” Welsh said, noting that the testimony Fourness gave was more than satisfactory, even under some harsh cross-examination.

Fourness’s counsel, Clarion County Public Defender Jacob Roberts, agreed with Welsh and noted that the testimony Fourness gave was exceptional in terms of both quantity and quality and gave details that “bolstered the commonwealth’s case” against Johnson and Rudolph without denying his own involvement.

Roberts asked the court to also take into consideration that Fourness’s plea also left him in violation of the parole he was on at the time of the case, noting he will also have to serve additional time for that violation. He also noted that while Fourness does have a prior record, none of his prior convictions were felony drug offenses.

“This wasn’t a career,” Roberts said, stating that Fourness had only recently become involved in drug trafficking when he was arrested and was already looking to get out of it.

He also read a letter from Roberts to the court, in which Roberts said, “I fully accept responsibility for my actions,” and asked the court for “mercy,” stating he is taking vocational classes in state prison and is “trying to become a better person.”

Roberts went on to note Fourness had already earned a certificate of completion for an outpatient drug and alcohol counseling program.

Judge Seidle-Patton stated that having presided over the trial of Johnson and Rudolph, she was entirely aware of the impact of Fourness’s testimony and how much it contributed to their convictions. However, she also noted she needed to weigh that impact against the fact that Fourness’s actions still contributed to a man’s death.

Weighing those two major issues, along with all of the other factors in the case, Judge Seidle-Patton stated she decided to reduce the minimum sentence to six years rather than seven years.

The charges stem from the November 20, 2018 overdose death of a 36-year-old man who was found deceased in the shower of an East 8th Avenue, Clarion residence.

Details of the case:

The charges are related to incidents that occurred from Thursday, November 15, 2018, to Friday, February 15, 2019, at the following locations: an apartment on 8th Avenue in Clarion and locations within Clarion, Elk, Jefferson, and Allegheny County.

press-conference
(Photo captured by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography during a press conference.)

Clarion Borough Police Department Conducts Death Investigation

On November 20, 2018, the Clarion Borough Police Department was contacted to conduct a death investigation involving a 36-year-old, white, non-Hispanic male in his residence, according to a criminal complaint.

Upon arrival to the scene, the male was found deceased in the shower of his East 8th Avenue residence.

An autopsy was conducted by Eric Lee Vey, M.D. Forensic Pathologist of Erie, Pa. on November 21, 2018, revealing the victim died as a result of fentanyl toxicity.

Police Conduct Investigation into Drug Trafficking

According to the complaint, the investigation led to a search warrant being conducted at Spencer Rudolph and Sadie Eisenman’s residence in Shippenville, Pa. on February 13, 2019. The search resulted in the seizure of controlled substances.

eisenman-rudolph

During an interview with Rudolph, he detailed that he obtained heroin from William Fourness and Joseph Hoffman.

Rudolph stated that he purchased heroin from Hoffman on a regular basis, and specifically on November 17, 2018, he met him at a convenience store in Brockway, Pa., and purchased a brick of heroin from him in exchange for approximately $300.00 in U.S. currency.

Rudolph stated that shortly after the drug purchase from Hoffman, Hoffman was placed in the Elk County Jail on drug charges from another incident.

Rudolph stated prior to Hoffman’s incarceration, he never met William Fourness. Rudolph said that he was contacted by Fourness via social media indicating that they had a mutual friend being Hoffman. He then began purchasing heroin directly from Fourness which was Hoffman’s heroin connection. Rudolph indicated that he made runs to Pittsburgh for Fourness and purchased heroin from an unknown black male and returned the drugs to Fourness.

During the interview with Rudolph, he said that he sold five stamp bags to the 36-year-old Clarion man on Monday, November 19, 2018, in the bathroom at work for $75.00. He indicated they were the same packages that he purchased from Hoffman in the parking lot of the Brockway convenience store on November 17, 2018.

Clarion Borough Chief of Police William H. Peck IV was able to confirm from the victim’s phone that Rudolph communicated with the victim by phone on Saturday, November 17, 2018, and on Monday, November 19, 2018.

Investigation into William Fourness Conducted

William Aarom Fourness

The complaint states that on February 15, 2019, Chief Peck, assuming the identity of a known individual, communicated with William Fourness via cell phone regarding the delivery of heroin. He was able to arrange a five brick heroin (250 stamp baggies) purchase from Fourness in exchange for $1,400.00.

On February 15, 2019, William Fourness, Kasey Eidinger, and a known seven-year-old child arrived at the Country Fair Store in Shippenville, Pa. Fourness was taken into custody, and five bricks of heroin were seized in his vehicle.

A search of his residence was conducted in Ridgway, Pa.

The Pa. State Police seized two plastic bags containing approximately 7.5 grams of suspected raw heroin, 4.4 grams of suspected methamphetamine, 20 white stamp bags with red eagle stamp, 28 purple stamps with red eagle stamp, a digital scale, heroin-related packaging material, the red eagle actual stamp, and $3,000.00 in U.S. currency.

On February 15, 2019, Fourness was interviewed at PSP Clarion. Fourness related he had been selling to Spencer Rudolph for a couple of months, a brick every week or two.

He stated that when he was arrested, he was on his way to Pittsburgh and re-up in the morning. He also indicated that he sold heroin to Hoffman with the last purchase of a brick or two of heroin being in November 2018.

Fourness said that either Spencer Rudolph or Ryan Gleixner made the run to Pittsburgh for him. The dealer in Pittsburgh is shown in his phone as “A.J.”

Fourness stated that on the day he was arrested, Eidinger knew who they were going to meet and exchange money for drugs.

He stated that he meets his Pittsburgh drug connection at a Monroeville convenience store, and he identified him as a black man who lives in a halfway house. He said the connection’s first name is Aaron and goes by the street name “Smooth.”

Joseph Hoffman Interviewed

According to the complaint, on February 19, 2019, Joseph Hoffman was interviewed. He admitted to his involvement in purchasing and selling controlled substances (heroin). He also admitted that he sold heroin to Spencer Rudolph on a regular basis, and the last time he sold heroin to him was on Saturday, November 17, 2018, in a convenience store parking lot in Brockway. Hoffman related that Rudolph was in a dark-colored Dodge truck that day.

Hoffman stated that Spencer Rudolph purchased a brick of purported heroin from him for $300.00. Hoffman indicated that he purchased his heroin from William Fourness.

On November 17, 2018, Hoffman went to William Fourness’ residence and picked up the brick of heroin from him. Fourness “fronted” him the brick of purported heroin on November 17, 2018, and he took that brick to a Brockway convenience store and sold it to Spencer Rudolph. After selling the purported heroin to Rudolph, he returned to William Fourness’ residence and gave him the $300.00 that Rudolph paid for the drugs. For making the deal with Rudolph, Fourness gave him some bags of heroin.

Hoffman stated that the last trip he made to Pittsburgh for Fourness was a day or two before meeting Rudolph at the Brockway convenience store. He indicated that the drugs were white, and he suspected the drugs were fentanyl and not heroin. He stated that was the only trip he made in which he suspected the drugs were fentanyl and not heroin.

Hoffman explained that he had been purchasing heroin from Fourness for the past three months before going to jail in November of 2018. He indicated that he also made trips to Pittsburgh to pick up heroin from a person known as “Smooth” a black male.

Hoffman stated that Fourness gave him the money, and he never counted it, but he assumed it was approximately $1,500.00. He said he would get the drugs from the black male in Monroeville at a convenience store and then return directly to Fourness’ residence and give the drugs to him.

William Fourness Re-Interviewed

On February 19, 2019, William Fourness was re-interviewed. He confirmed that during the period from approximately August of 2018 thru February of 2019 that – Joseph Hoffman, Spencer Rudolph, and Ryan Gleixner – would, under his direction, make trips to Pittsburgh to meet the black male known as “Smooth” (Aaron Johnson) to acquire heroin for him.

Fourness stated that he would directly contact Johnson on the day of the transactions for heroin. He indicated that whoever he sent to pick up the heroin from Johnson had no direct contact with Johnson. Fourness provided the “runner” with $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 in U.S. currency to give Johnson in return for the heroin, and the heroin was $140.00 per brick.

Fourness said that on a couple of occasions, he did wire “Smooth” U.S. currency via Western Union, and he sent the money under the name of Aaron Johnson, and the last Western Union transaction to Johnson was in the amount of $4,000.00.

During the interview, Fourness was asked if he knew the difference between heroin and fentanyl.

Fourness said that he personally did not know the difference.

Chief Peck Contacts Allegheny County Adult Probation Office

On February 20, 2019, Chief Peck contacted Probation Officer Omar Smith, of Allegheny County Adult Probation Office. Smith confirmed that Aaron Johnson is currently on Allegheny County Probation. Smith provided a phone number for Aaron Johnson.

Search Warrant Issued for Kasey Eidinger’s Cell Phone

On February 21, a search warrant of Kasey Eidinger cell phone yielded several contacts between Eidinger and Johnson to include a text message on February 15, 2019, that discussed amounts and pricing of controlled substances. Also located on the search of Eidinger’s phone is an image of Eidinger with an individual believed to be Aaron Johnson, based on Johnson’s JNET photograph.

PA State Police Troop C Vice Unit Conducts Controlled Purchase from Fourness

On November 11, 2018, PA State Police Troop C Vice Unit conducted a controlled drug purchase from William Fourness, a brick of heroin (50 stamp bags) for $350.00 in U.S. currency.

Troop C Vice made the purchase using a confidential informant.

The controlled purchase took place at a convenience store in St. Marys.

At 11:26 a.m., William Fourness arrived driving a Nissan Pathfinder with Kasey Eidinger in the front passenger’s seat.

Fourness exited the Pathfinder and entered the C.I.’s vehicle.

Fourness handed the brick to the informant, and the informant provided Fourness with $350.00 in U.S. currency.

Fourness made a comment “Be careful because this (@#!*) is putting people in the hospital.” The markings on the stamp bags were marked “Don’t front, kill bill, and some plain white bags.”

This exchange between Fourness and the confidential informant was in direct view of a Troop C Vice undercover trooper.

The statement referenced above by Fourness about “be careful this (@#!*) been putting people in the hospital” was the same day the Clarion Borough Police found the victim in this case deceased at his residence in Clarion Borough.

Search Warrants Issued for Cell Phones of Individuals Involved

A result of these search warrants yielded in the discovery of numerous text messages, Facebook messages, and other cellular communications showing that Hoffman, Rudolph, and Gleixner were involved in a conspiracy with William Fourness and Kasey Eidinger to purchase and deliver controlled substances namely heroin/fentanyl from Aaron Johnson.

Court orders for the cellular providers of the aforementioned parties’ cellular devices confirmed these communications.

This information corroborates statements provided by Rudolph, Hoffman, and Fourness.

Evidence Supports Drug Distribution Ring

According to the criminal complaint, the evidence in this investigation supports that the make-up this criminal organization is as follows:

William Fourness and Kasey Eidinger would send “runners” Joseph Hoffman, Spencer Rudolph, and Ryan Gleixner to Allegheny County to purchase large amounts of heroin/fentanyl from the supplier (Aaron Johnson).

These controlled substances were then transported back to Elk County to Fourness and Eidinger where they then distributed the controlled substances throughout Elk, Jefferson, and Clarion Counties.

U.S. currency was sent with “runners” or by alternate means from Fourness to the supplier.

Johnson and Rudolph Convicted:

A jury found 32-year-old Aaron Ernest Johnson, of Pittsburgh, guilty of drug delivery resulting in death, corrupt organizations, corrupt organizations – conspiracy, criminal use of a communication facility, seven counts of delivery of a controlled substance, three counts of possession with intent to deliver (heroin/fentanyl), possession with intent to deliver (cocaine), two counts of possession of a controlled substance, four counts of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia on August 3.

A jury also found 24-year-old Spencer Gene Rudolph, of Shippenville, guilty of drug delivery resulting in death, corrupt organizations, corrupt organizations – conspiracy, criminal use of a communication facility, and delivery of a controlled substance on August 3.

A summary of the trial is available here.

Johnson’s Sentence:

President Judge Sara J. Seidle-Patton on Wednesday, August 26, sentenced Aaron Ernest Johnson to a total of a minimum of 460 months (38 years and four months) to a maximum of 920 months (76 years and eight months) in state prison.

Johnson was ordered to serve a minimum of 310 months to a maximum of 620 months in state prison on the drug delivery resulting in death charge and 11 other felony charges. He was also ordered to serve a minimum of 150 months to a maximum of 300 months in state prison on a second case involving multiple felony drug charges, with the sentences in the two cases to run consecutively.

Rudolph’s Sentence:

On Wednesday, August 26, Judge Seidle-Patton also sentenced Spencer Gene Rudolph to a total sentence of a minimum of 196 months (16 years and four months) to a maximum of 384 months (32 years) in state prison.

Rudolph was ordered to serve a minimum of 162 months to a maximum of 324 months on the drug delivery resulting in death charge and other related felony charges and was also ordered to serve a minimum of 34 months to a maximum of 60 months on a second case involving multiple felony drug charges, with the sentences in the two cases to run consecutively.

Additional charges:

President Judge Sara J. Seidle-Patton sentenced 33-year-old Joseph David Hoffman, of St. Marys, to a minimum of 12 months up to a maximum of 36 months in a state correctional facility on one ungraded felony count of Conspiracy – Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver on November 18.

Ryan Ritchie Gleixner, 35, of St. Marys, pleaded guilty to one ungraded felony count of Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver on Wednesday, September 9. Sentencing for his case has not yet been scheduled.

Sadie Rose Eisenman entered the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program on October 7.

Kasey M. Eidinger is scheduled for a criminal pre-trial conference on January 15, 2021.

RELATED:

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Man Charged in Multi-County Drug Sting Spurred by Overdose Death Enters Guilty Plea

District Attorney Addresses Sentencing in Drug Death Case: ‘Drug Dealers Are Officially on Notice’

Seidle-Patton Sentences Men to Combined 108 Years in Drug Death Case

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Overdose Death Trial Continues in Clarion

Trial Begins for Two Men Connected to Drug Investigation, Overdose Death of Clarion Man

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Six Arrested in Multi-County Drug Sting Spurred by Overdose Death


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