Amanda Albee’s family was devastated when the 30-year-old pregnant mother was found dead after overdosing last November.
They still are devastated, but Albee’s sister said they don’t want to see the life of the dealer who sold Albee the drugs destroyed, either.
Alycha Rodriguez, 23, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced last Friday to seven years in prison after she admitted to selling fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more potent than heroin, to Albee, who was three months pregnant.
“We feel it’s appropriate,” said Albee’s sister, Amy Toomin, 30, of Lower Township. “There’s justice served because even though we’re hurt by the loss of my sister, we want the girl (Rodriguez) to take opportunities and try to better herself.”
Albee left behind a 9-year-old daughter. Toomin said Rodriguez is also the mother of a young child.
“She seemed very apologetic,” Toomin added. “She did turn and address the family.”
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to strict liability of drug-induced death — a charge prosecutors in New Jersey are utilizing more in the midst of the opioid epidemic. However, it can be difficult to prove.
“You need to know who the actual seller is and be able to link that particular distribution to the person’s death,” said Assistant Prosecutor Ed Shim, of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office.
The state Attorney General’s Office issued a directive in 2014 instructing local officials to take advantage of the law, which was enacted in 1986. Strict liability arrests have increased significantly across the state since — from two and three in 2011 and 2012 to nine and 15 in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Last week, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office charged a Middle Township man with strict liability for allegedly selling heroin to a man who died of an overdose hours later.
Toomin said the legal proceedings brought a degree of closure to her family because Albee’s death was officially linked to Rodriguez.
“There is some accountability on the addict themselves,” she added. “There’s accountability on both parts.”
Strict liability convictions can carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but Toomin, who is in recovery from addiction herself, isn’t sure whether that will discourage dealers.
“We really don’t know,” Toomin said. “It’s definitely something different that they’re trying.”
Rodriguez had no prior convictions, Shim said. She was staying at the Beach House Motel in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township when she was arrested. Shim and Toomin said Rodriguez thought she was selling heroin not pure fentanyl, which is much more deadly.
Shim said Rodriguez will have to serve at least 85 percent of her seven-year sentence.