2-year sentence in Ecstasy drug death

EDMONDS — The courtroom was packed with people who wished things were different.

Patrick and Lisa McCarthy want more time with their daughter Danielle, 16. They wish they could’ve seen their youngest child get her driver’s license, graduate from high school and college, fall in love and hold children of her own.

Instead, they only have their memories and a box that holds their daughter’s ashes, Patrick McCarthy told a judge Monday.

“This is who my daughter is today,” he said, showing a picture of Danielle’s urn. “This is what my daughter has been reduced to. This is my life.”

The teen died of an Ecstasy overdose while partying with friends on New Year’s Eve 2006. Her parents thought she was at a slumber party. Instead, she spent the night surrounded by young people who failed to summon medical aid over the eight hours she repeatedly vomited, wet her pants, collapsed, begged for her mother and finally suffered a seizure.

Donalydia Huertas, 19, of Puyallup said Monday she wished she had helped McCarthy that night. Huertas said she wished she could convey how sorry she is that her friend died.

“If I could take back that night, I would in a heartbeat,” Huertas said. “I wish I could take it all back. I wish there was a way I could show how sorry I am to Danielle’s family.”

Huertas was convicted of giving Danielle McCarthy the drugs and aggressively denying any efforts to get the medical attention that may have saved her life.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair on Monday ordered Huertas to be held in juvenile detention until the teen’s 21st birthday. Fair said the standard juvenile sentence —zero to 30 days — would be a manifest injustice.

She said Huertas needed to be locked up longer than a month to protect the community. The crime was cruel and McCarthy was a vulnerable victim whom Huertas, 17 at the time, refused to help.

Huertas acted with a “shocking lack of judgment over a lengthy period of time,” Fair said.

The judge said she wished she could take away all the pain felt by all of those in the courtroom. That isn’t her place, Fair said. Instead she must focus on handing down a fair and equitable sentence for the crimes Huertas committed, the judge said.

Huertas sobbed and her legs shook as the judge sentenced the teen to about two years in juvenile detention. She clung to her mom until county marshals broke the pair apart.

Huertas’ mother told the courtroom her daughter is remorseful. She’s trying hard to better her life and make amends, Jean Amon said. She believes her daughter can become a productive part of the community. Amon said she wishes she could say or do something to take away the McCarthys’ pain.

Patrick and Lisa McCarthy were holding hands as Huertas was handcuffed and led off.

They were not moved by Huertas’ apology. They said they don’t believe she was crying for their daughter. She had more than a year to apologize and never did, they said.

The McCarthys are relieved Huertas will spend more than a month behind bars.

They don’t believe the sentence was enough, they said.

Fair made the wrong decision earlier this month when she ruled that Huertas would be sentenced as a juvenile, Patrick McCarthy said.

Huertas was tried and convicted in adult court. The standard sentence would have been about six years in prison.

A jury found Huertas guilty of controlled substance homicide but couldn’t agree on the first-degree manslaughter charge. Instead, jurors convicted Huertas of the lesser second-degree manslaughter charge. That crime on its own was not serious enough to keep the case in adult court.

Under juvenile rules, the standard sentence was between zero and 30 days in juvenile detention.

Co-defendant David Morris, 21, who sold the Ecstasy to Huertas, pleaded guilty to controlled substance homicide in November. He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

The McCarthys wonder why the punishment is so lenient for someone who kills another person, Patrick McCarthy said. They plan to lobby state lawmakers to change the sentence for juveniles convicted of controlled substance homicide. They will continue to try to raise awareness about the crime.

Lisa McCarthy said her daughter’s life was worth more. Her daughter was smart, caring and loving. She was always telling people she loved them, always hugging her family and friends.

The Puyallup teen used to worry when she saw an ambulance or fire truck race by. She’d tell her mom she was concerned someone was suffering, her mother said.

Lisa McCarthy said she is haunted by her daughter’s last hours and the suffering she endured. She wonders when her daughter realized no one was going to help her and she wonders if her daughter knew she was dying, Lisa McCarthy said.

“My baby spent her last night alive alone and suffering,” she said.

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

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