Sentencing for drug death

EVERETT — For eight hours, Danielle McCarthy showed signs that the drugs were killing her.

The 16-year-old Puyallup girl ate two Ecstasy tablets on New Year’s Eve 2006, and her life began to end.

She threw up again and again. Her eyes rolled back in her head. She collapsed and wet her pants. In a whisper, she pleaded with an acquaintance not to let her die, not to tell her mom about the drugs.

Surrounded by a roomful of people, the girl convulsed and vomited again. Her body went slack.

Six hours later, her lips blue, her skin cold, jaw rigid and breath gone, she was dropped off at an Edmonds hospital.

Danielle was dead.

On Wednesday, the man who admitted supplying Danielle with Ecstasy was sentenced to more than four years in prison for his part in the girl’s death. A judge agreed to allow David Morris, 21, to spend half his sentence undergoing drug treatment outside of prison as part of a special sentencing alternative for drug offenders.

Morris, also of Puyallup, admitted he brought the drugs and sold them to another woman, who prosecutors allege gave them to Danielle. Morris pleaded guilty to the seldom-used charge of controlled-substance homicide.

He also is expected to testify in the trial of co-defendant Donalydia Huertas, 18. She is charged with first-degree manslaughter and controlled-substance homicide. Prosecutors allege that Huertas bought the drugs from Morris, gave them to Danielle and repeatedly refused to let others summon help for the girl. The trial is expected to begin next week.

Seattle attorney Russell Aoki asked the judge to grant the special sentence for Morris, pointing out that the state Department of Corrections also recommended the alternative.

Morris never sold drugs until that night, Aoki said. In fact, he was a good student and a talented athlete with a bright future until he fell in with a bad crowd in 2006. He began using drugs, including Ecstasy, dropped out of school and moved out of his parents’ house, Aoki wrote in court documents. He made bad decisions that led to a tragedy on New Year’s Eve 2006, Aoki said.

But his life is salvageable, the lawyer said. Morris is motivated to prove himself to his family and the court, Aoki said.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Colleen St. Clair agreed to the alternative sentence. She told the judge Wednesday that Morris played a significant role but she believes Huertas is more responsible for Danielle’s death.

“The fact is Danielle McCarthy did not have to die,” St. Clair said.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair agreed. She said she had reservations about the special sentence for Morris. His failure to help the girl was more grievous than his decision to deal drugs, Fair said. She dismissed the idea that Morris didn’t know how to help save Danielle.

“You did know what to do and you didn’t do it,” Fair said.

She gave Morris credit, however, for quickly taking responsibility for his actions, cooperating with police and prosecutors and showing remorse. Even with the alternative sentence, he will still serve time in prison, Fair said.

Morris apologized, adding that three years ago he never would have imagined that he’d become a convicted felon. He wants to prove he is a good person, he said.

Danielle’s parents talked about their daughter.

They told the judge Danielle was a warm, loving person who once explained that she greeted people with a hug and an “I love you” because she thought everyone should know they’re loved. Danielle did well in school and planned to go to college. She had never tried Ecstasy until that night, they said.

His daughter’s death has devastated his family, Patrick McCarthy said. He wakes up thinking of her and falls asleep thinking of his daughter. The in-between hours haunt him,

“I have to live with the thoughts of my little girl dying slowly while she begged for help,” her father said.

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

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