EVERETT — Bridgette Johns could have been celebrating her 20th birthday Tuesday with her family.
The occasion, said her stepfather, William Spesshardt, “should have been a day of celebration. It should have been a day of joy.”
Spesshardt envisioned laughter filling their home.
Instead, the milestone was marked by tears in a courtroom. Rather than handing her gifts, Spesshardt carried a box containing her ashes.
Johns died from a heroin overdose in December 2009. On Tuesday, the Mountlake Terrace man convicted of supplying the drugs that killed Johns faced the consequences for his actions.
Joshua Marlo Knox, 27, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison in the controlled-substances homicide and heroin delivery.
That was the top of the sentencing range Judge Kenneth Cowsert could impose under state law.
Knox in January opted to have his case heard before Cowsert rather than a jury.
Prosecutors said Johns was addicted to heroin but had taken steps to break her addiction. They said Knox was aware of Johns’ attempts to stop using heroin but still provided her with the drug on the day she died.
At trial, Cowsert’s findings tracked closely with the evidence deputy prosecutors detailed in court papers.
Johns fell asleep after taking the drug. Twice later she woke up, complaining that her ears were ringing and that something was wrong.
Knox told detectives he told Johns to go back to sleep. Later he was awakened by what he took to be loud snoring. Experts testified the noise likely was Johns entering drug-induced respiratory distress.
Johns was barely breathing, if at all, when Knox awoke around 11 a.m., saw her condition, and called 911, Cowsert found.
The image of her daughter asking in vain for medical help was painful for her mother, Ruth Spesshardt.
“He was more concerned about getting in trouble for drugs than the worth of somebody’s life,” she said. “He had a huge window to be able to save her, not once, not twice, but three times.”
Cowsert found that Knox eventually did call 911 — “albeit too little, too late.”
The defendant and his mother, Gail Knox, agreed he deserved to go to prison. They took exception to the characterization that he intentionally let Johns die.
“He would not hurt her,” Gail Knox said. “He is not a bad person. He is a drug addict.”
“It wasn’t intentional,” Joshua Knox insisted.
Cowsert told the defendant he can get help with his drug abuse while in prison.
“You got clean and sober once,” the judge told Knox. “Do it again and stay that way.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.