Dealer charged in fatal overdose

LAKE STEVENS — Bridgette Johns promised to come home.

She and her family made plans to finish decorating the Christmas tree, cut out construction paper snowflakes and watch “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

“It’s not much of a Christmas movie, but it was her favorite,” her mother Ruth Spesshardt said. “She always wanted to be very unique. She wanted to stand out.”

Johns didn’t make it home that Saturday in December. The dark enemy that she had fought to keep at bay slipped into her veins and attacked. Johns died of a drug overdose. She was 18.

Now, a Mountlake Terrace man stands charged in connection with the teen’s 2009 death. Prosecutors allege that Joshua Knox, 26, provided Johns with heroin. He allegedly told detectives he knew that Johns had quit using heroin and worried that he’d given her too much.

“Everybody knows when you stop using, you can’t use as much when you start up again,” Knox allegedly told investigators.

On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty in Snohomish County Superior Court to controlled substances homicide. He was taken into custody and ordered held on $250,000 bail.

In considering whether or not to jail Knox, Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas said he was struck by allegations that Knox disregarded Johns’ pleas for help the night she overdosed.

Knox allegedly told investigators that he’d given Johns a ride home from Seattle. He was going to drop her off at the shelter where she was staying with her boyfriend, but instead, the two went to Knox’s house. There he offered Johns heroin, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Bridges wrote in court papers.

Johns fell asleep but woke up and complained that her ears were ringing. She was worried something was wrong with her. Knox said he told Johns to go back to sleep. She woke him a second time and complained of stomach pains. Knox later woke to Johns’ loud snoring. He told investigators he thought of turning her on her side in case she vomited, but decided against it, Bridges wrote.

Johns was dead by morning.

“I miss everything about her,” Spesshardt said. “I miss her waking me up in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep. I miss doing puzzles with her. I miss her attitude.”

Johns was charismatic, kind-hearted and sassy. She wrote poetry and sketched. She had an off-beat style that included bright, neon clothes, rows of plastic bracelets and necklaces around her arms and neck and ever-changing hairstyles. She rarely posed for a picture without flashing a peace sign or sticking out her tongue.

Johns didn’t think twice about striking up a conversation with a stranger. She loved her friends fiercely. They gave her the nickname “Questions” for her insatiable courtesy. Her mom called her “Short Stuff.”

“She was a mother hen,” Spesshardt said. “She always wanted to make people smile and cheer them up.”

But Johns struggled in life. She was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder in her early teens. It took some time to find medication that treated her symptoms. Her parents had divorced, and her relationship with her father faltered.

“She had problems dealing with it,” Spesshardt said.

Johns first experimented with marijuana. Later she moved on to harder drugs, including heroin, and the addiction deepened. Johns went into rehab about a year before her death. When she got out a few months later she talked about making better choices, including getting her high school diploma and leaving the streets.

At her funeral, one boy talked about Johns helping him get off drugs. The boy has since reconciled with his parents and is back home, Spesshardt said.

“He said she saved his life,” Spesshardt said.

Spesshardt said that she takes comfort knowing that her daughter helped friends and strangers. Still, the Lake Stevens mom misses her daughter. She cherishes a note that her daughter wrote her a month before her death. The teen wrote of her love for her mom.

“No matter what happens, make sure you tell your kids you love them,” Spesshardt said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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