Phillip Clay Jennings and Mason Reppen shared a lot in life: childhood experiences, school classes, baseball fields and, eventually, drugs.
On Friday, Jennings was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for selling the fentanyl that killed Reppen, 22, in an overdose.
The case is yet another example of the insidiousness of the opioid crisis in Kentucky. Jennings, 23, graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky, had begun managing and selling real estate in Lexington, and had begun a promising start-up company that marketed a spray that would deter bears. He had been in negotiations with the National Park Service for a sponsorship, according to court records.
But Jennings was also an opioid addict. His addiction began in high school after his wisdom teeth were pulled and he was lawfully prescribed narcotics to relieve the pain. But he had also used a variety of other drugs, including LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana.
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On November 30, 2017, Jennings sold 4 grams of fentanyl to Reppen for $60. The next day, Dec. 1, 2017, Reppen’s younger brother found Mason dead in the house on Lexington’s Gibson Avenue where he had lived.
“My heart, to this day, keeps breaking apart,” Reppen’s mother, Kelley Wirth, told U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves in court before the sentence was announced.
Wirth noted that Jennings called her son “friend.”
But, she said, “Mr. Jennings put approximately $60 ahead of my son’s life. …What kind of friend does that?”
In sentencing, Reeves noted that Jennings used some of the fentanyl that he sold to Reppen.
“You were willing to play Russian roulette and you think because you were willing to take the risk that it diminishes the consequences, but it does not,” Reeves told Jennings in court.
Reeves added “there is no penalty we can announce that will satisfy this victim’s family.”