Mom reads letter to drug dealer during sentencing for son’s overdose death in Austintown

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'How do you live with yourself?' she asked Cedric Sanders before he was sentenced for providing the drugs that caused her son's death

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — After her son died from an overdose, Cheryl Puskas wrote a letter to the man who sold him the drugs.

She read from that letter Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court as the man, Cedric Sanders, 40, of Bouquet Avenue, was sentenced.

Sanders was sentenced to three years for selling the drugs that led to the Nov. 29, 2017 overdose of her son Jordan Johnson, 27, in Austintown.

Puskas said in court before Judge Anthony D’Apolito, she wrote the letter shortly after she learned of the death of her son to the person who sold him the drugs that to his death. That man was later identified as Sanders.

As she read from the letter, she asked straight away: “How do you live with yourself? How would you feel losing your son to this? I know my son is not the only one this happened to.”

Puskas said she is praying that while Sanders is in prison, he will straighten his life out so he does not sell drugs to anyone else and that he sets a good example for his children.

“I will miss my son every day of my life and will not have peace until I see him again,” Puskas read from her letter before walking back to the gallery in the courtroom in tears.

Sanders was sentenced on charges of corrupting another with drugs and trafficking in heroin. He was also originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, but that charge was dropped as part of his plea agreement.

Assistant Prosecutor Steve Maszczak said a brother of Johnson’s found his body. Austintown police found three phones where Johnson was found and they traced those phones back to Sanders.

Maszczak said investigators found a text between Sanders and Puskas arranging the sale of drugs. Johnson died from a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl, Maszczak said.

Maszczak recommended a three-year sentence for Sanders, saying that the case would be a tough one to take to trial in front of a jury because it was largely circumstantial.

Defense attorney Lou DeFabio asked for a two-year sentence, saying there is no evidence that Sanders and Johnson ever actually met. DeFabio said that by the plea his client made, Johnson’s family is getting some closure. He said proving intent would be very tough for prosecutors to prove if the case ever went to trial.

“It’s a 50-50 case,” DeFabio said.

Sanders is also an addict and he has no major criminal record, DeFabio said.

Gus Johnson, the father of the victim, said that Sanders was getting a gift. Johnson said his son had been sober for over two months and was getting treatment when he succumbed to his addiction and bought the drugs that killed him.

“He took advantage of a kid who was struggling,” Gus Johnson said. “He killed my son and left a big hole in my life. You don’t deserve to have any of these charges dropped. You deserve to be in prison for the rest of your life.”

When it was his turn to speak, Sanders asked if the sentencing could be delayed so he could say goodbye to his mother and his children. The judge never gave him an answer.

Judge D’Apolito said overdose cases are tough. He added that even though it is hard for prosecutors to prove intent, anyone who sells drugs is engaged in an activity where bad things will happen and those people need to be held accountable when they do.

“When you are reckless and this occurs, you have to pay a price,” Judge D’Apolito said.

Sanders will be given credit for 281 days served in the county jail awaiting the outcome of his case.

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