A drug dealer who sold pain pills to a woman who overdosed and died the same day has been sentenced to more than 27 years in federal prison. Judy McIntosh, of Jackson, was sentenced Wednesday to serve 327 months.
The sentence is the first in the federal Eastern District of Kentucky for a person convicted of causing a death by illegally distributing prescription drugs, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.
It's almost certainly not the first case in which a drug dealer sold pills to someone who died in Eastern Kentucky, but in McIntosh's case, authorities could tie the death directly to McIntosh.
With hundreds of overdose deaths a year in the eastern half of the state, there will be more federal prosecutions involving drug deaths, Harvey said.
He said his office is working with police in the 67-county region to try to develop more prosecutions in cases linking overdose deaths to specific drug dealers. Making that connection can be difficult. Addicts and drug abusers may buy pills from more than dealer, for instance.
But Harvey said his office is looking closely at drug cases to see if the evidence would allow prosecuting dealers for causing a death.
"This is a real point of emphasis for us now," Harvey said in an interview Wednesday.
The goal is to deter drug trafficking through stiff sentences.
The minimum penalty for distributing drugs that cause a death is 20 years, and ranges up to life, he said.
Harvey said he hopes drug dealers will realize "they could be looking at spending the rest of their life in the federal penitentiary."
The 327-month sentence for McIntosh is among the longest in the district in a drug case.
McIntosh, 48, sold pills to Ashley Ritchie, on Oct. 2, 2010. The 19-year-old woman died later that day of a drug overdose at McIntosh's house, according to court records.
McIntosh sold drugs in Breathitt and Lee counties, court records say.
Authorities began making undercover buys from her a few months later. McIntosh sometimes had teenagers with her when she sold; in one undercover buy, McIntosh had her 16-year-old daughter retrieve the pills she sold, according to a sworn statement by Michael Kersey, an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The DEA and Operation UNITE investigated McIntosh.
Police arrested McIntosh in June 2011. She pleaded guilty in March.
McIntosh will have to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence because there is no parole in the federal system.
Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1