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Saukville man sentenced to 10 years for drug homicide PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 18:40

He bought heroin for ‘life-long friend’ who died of an overdose at age 38

    Guilty of first-degree reckless homicide, a 43-year-old Saukville man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for supplying  heroin to a Town of Port Washington woman who overdosed and died in August 2016.
    Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams also sentenced John W. Warrix to five years of extended supervision and ordered him to pay $5,000 restitution to cover the funeral expenses of Samantha Ritenour, who was found dead in her home on Highway C on Aug. 15, 2016. She was 38.
    Warrix, who was on probation in connection with another drug case when he bought heroin for Ritenour, pleaded no contest to the homicide charge.
    Challenging the por-trayal of Warrix as a loyal friend of Ritenour, District Attorney Adam Gerol said that after Warrix realized Ritenour overdosed, he waited at least an hour to call for help to give him time to sanitize the crime scene, took Ritenour’s cell phone to cover his tracks and lied to authorities.
    “Things that should have been there were not there,” Gerol said, referring to the crime scene.
    What exactly happened during Ritenour’s last hours remains unclear, Gerol said, but one possible scenario is that Warrix slipped Ritenour “bad heroin” to knock her out so he could search her home for drugs he was convinced she had taken from him.
    “Whatever story we buy into, Mr. Warrix knew Samantha Ritenour was down on the ground and likely dead for at least an hour before he and his mother called 911,” Gerol said. “He did nothing for her.”
    But Warrix’s attorney, Lauria Ann Lynch-German, said Warrix was a “life-long” friend of Ritenour, and one of the things they had in common was an addiction to heroin. So when Ritenour asked Warrix to buy heroin for her, he did, not to make a profit as drug dealers do but to help a friend, Lynch-German said.
    “Mr. Warrix is not a dealer. Mr. Warrix is an addict,” she said. “My client admits he took Sam’s cell phone. The reason he did that was to protect Ms. Ritenour’s reputation and her family. It wasn’t about sanitizing the crime scene.
    “This was not nefarious. This was not profiteering.”
    Williams, however, told Warrix his failure to immediately help his friend when he knew she was in trouble was inexcusable.
    “At the time you knew your ‘lifelong friend’ was in trouble, you failed to act appropriately,” Williams said. “You didn’t have a concern about Samantha when she was in trouble. You were only worried about yourself.”
    Not long after Ritenour’s death was reported, authorities began piecing together the case using cell phone records, Ozaukee County Detective Sgt. Chad Eibs testified during a Jan. 31 preliminary hearing.
    At 9:32 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Warrix texted Ritenour, “Did you do urs?,” Eibs said, adding that detectives later concluded  Warrix was asking Ritenour if she had used her heroin.
    On Sunday, Aug. 14, Warrix “pretty much spent all day trying to get ahold of her (Ritenour),” Eibs said.
    “Sam, you promised you wouldn’t overdo it,” one of Warrix’s text messages read, according to the criminal complaint.
    Later, Warrix texted, “Sam, you better be OK. I’ll feel horrible if your (sic) not well, Sam. It will be my fault.”
    During Tuesday’s sentencing, Gerol said  it’s possible Warrix knew Ritenour had overdosed before he sent the messages.
    “Maybe those texts were sent for their aftereffect ... to set up a story,” he said.
    Lynch-German said that’s not possible.
    “My client is not sophisticated enough to engage in an elaborate backstory,” she said.
    Although investigators initially considered Warrix a witness, they “drilled down on him,” Gerol said.
    “He claimed he had no idea how she got the drugs,” Gerol said.
    But in November, after detectives confronted Warrix with his and Ritenour’s cell phone records, he admitted that on Aug. 13 he called his heroin source in Milwaukee 11 times within an hour to set up a deal, the complaint states.
    Later that day, Warrix said, he and Ritenour went to Milwaukee to buy heroin. Warrix said Ritenour refused to talk to the drug dealer because of a previous argument, so Warrix set up the deal, according to the complaint.
    “Mr. Warrix indicated he set up the drug purchase and used Ms. Ritenour’s money,” Eibs testified.
    An autopsy concluded that Ritenour died of mixed-drug toxicity caused by heroin and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication better known by the trade name Xanex, according to the complaint.
    Gerol noted that about a month after Ritenour’s death, a Saukville man overdosed on heroin provided by Ritenour but survived.
    Gerol said the man told investigators “the instant he began pushing the heroin into his arm, he realized something was wrong. He said it was too hot.”
    According to the complaint, the man, who was a neighbor of Warrix, told authorities that the heroin he received from Warrix was probably “cut” with fentanyl, an opioid pain medication similar to but significantly more powerful than morphine, because it “put him down” as soon as he began injecting it, the complaint states.
    That begs questions, Gerol said, about the heroin Warrix purchased for Ritenour and whether he used it to disable her so he could search her home for Xanex pills he thought she had stolen from him.
    “Rather than this being a cooperative drug deal, Mr. Warrix might have intentionally put Ms. Ritenour down so he could search her home for the drugs that were missing,” he said.
    Lynch-German said Warrix didn’t need to search Ritenour’s home because he knew where she kept her drugs. Warrix, the father of five children and one grandchild he has never met because he has been in jail and prison, is simply a struggling heroin addict, she said.
    “There’s a lot to John Warrix that’s just plain sad,” she said.
    During a brief statement, Warrix said, “If I could switch positions, I’d take her place. Sam was better than me.
    “I really don’t feel that sorry for myself. I’m here, and nothing I can do will bring Samantha back.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 August 2017 18:41
 
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