Jon Herrle gave his girlfriend Janice Pasternak crushed opiod painkillers and then left his home when he found her motionless and cold on his couch.
For that he was sentenced Wednesday to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison for manslaughter.
Herrle, 55, became the first person convicted of an opiate-related homicide under Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
“This conviction is not only justice for the young woman who lost her life, but sends a message to drug dealers or anyone who provides opiates that cause a fatal overdose in Erie County that we will prosecute them for a homicide-related offense,” said Flynn, who became district attorney in January 2017.
Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio sentenced Herrle to the maximum punishment agreed to in exchange for Herrle’s guilty plea in November to second-degree manslaughter.
The judge used the sentencing hearing to remember the woman who died on Sept. 26, 2016.
DiTullio talked about a letter from Pasternak’s mother describing how her daughter was turning her life around. She had gotten a job at the University at Buffalo and been accepted into a graduate level business administration program there, the judge said.
She also noted Pasternak left behind an adolescent daughter who is now being raised by her grandmother.
The judge acknowledged Herrle’s own problems, that he “at one time was a hardworking person” who became addicted to painkillers after his injuries in a serious car accident.
But that did not excuse his actions, she said.
“Giving Janice opiates that night was like shooting her in the head with a gun,” the judge said, adding that anyone who provides a fatal overdose to another person “is going to jail.”
Pasternak, 38, and Herrle both used drugs. The night Pasternak died she had been drinking and thought she was using cocaine when Herrle instead gave her the opioid powder.
After he left home with his unconscious girlfriend on the couch, Herrle “called a friend to check on her,” according to prosecutor Nicholas Texido.
The friend found Pasternak’s body and called 911.
“The life of a young, beautiful woman was cut short because the defendant acted recklessly,” Texido said.
He compounded his recklessness by not to immediately calling for help, Texido said.
“Were it not for his actions, she would be here today,” he said.
Herrle told the court and Pasternak’s family that he regretted his actions, saying he thinks about Pasternak every day.