JEFFERSON -- The immediate, as well as immeasurable collateral damage caused by heroin in Jefferson County was again on full display Tuesday in the courtroom of Branch IV Circuit Court Judge Randy Kosch-nick.
The mothers of the victim and perpetrator of the latest drug crime were both reduced to tears as they told the judge how heroin and its often fatal effects have forever changed their lives.
Koschnick had what has become his all-too-familiar challenge of determining just how long to send a convict, this time 21-year-old Samantha Molkenthen of Oconomowoc -- a woman with no criminal record and a supportive family, to prison for providing heroin that killed her 19-year-old friend in 2015.
At the conclusion of the hearing late Tuesday morning, Koschnick had settled on ordering Molkenthen to nine years initial confinement in Wisconsin State Prison, with six years extended supervision, for a total of 15 years within the system.
The state had recommended 10 years initial confinement and five years extended supervision. Molkenthen's defense told Koschnick it believed a total of 10 years within the system, with four to five years initial incarceration, would be appropriate.
In June, Molkenthen entered a plea of no contest to a charge she delivered heroin that killed 19-year-old Dale A. Bjorklund of Ixonia in mid-June of 2015. Molkenthen's official conviction was on one count of first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of heroin.
According to a criminal complaint in the matter, Bjorklund's girlfriend found his body in his bedroom on County Highway CW in the town of Ixonia at approximately 4 p.m. on June 14, 2015.
The complaint said Bjorklund and his girlfriend exchanged text messages on June 13, 2015, and when Bjorklund did not respond, she went to his residence and found his body in the basement bedroom. Drug paraphernalia was found nearby.
Defense attorney Jonathan Lavoy told the court at sentencing Tuesday that, as a friend, Molkenthen had wanted to relieve Bjorklund's suffering as a result of his heroin withdrawal before he died. Lavoy said compassion, albeit it "twisted," was the reason she provided him with the drug.
Lavoy said, at the time of Bjorklund's death, Molkenthen herself was a functioning heroin addict who was in a drug-based "friend group" with Bjorklund. Lavoy said this group, like many of its kind, passed money and drugs around to help its members through withdrawal periods and times when money was scarce. He stressed Molkenthen never profited monetarily from the transfer of heroin from her possession to that of Bjorklund and that she was a young, small-time player in the area's heroin underground. Lavoy said his client should be given a more lenient sentence than one recommended by Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Shock for those reasons and because she would not be a danger to the community when released. He also said she was "a bright, intelligent girl" with a promising future.
"Although she was not that at the time of Dale's overdose," Lavoy said of Molkenthen when she was using heroin. "At that time, she was a zombie," he said.
"She did not want to hurt Dale, she was his friend," Lavoy said, adding Bjorklund had a heroin problem before he met Molkenthen. It was also noted Molkenthen was introduced to heroin from a previous boyfriend and was an established user before meeting Bjorklund.
Lavoy told Koschnick Molkenthen has already paid a steep price for her crime. Earlier this summer, while being held in the Jefferson County Jail -- she was given 271 days credit for time already served -- Molkenthen gave birth to a daughter. She immediately put the girl up for adoption. Lavoy said, with Molkenthen's assistance, a loving family for the child was found. Lavoy also noted that while being held in jail pending disposition of her case, Molkenthen earned her high school equivalency diploma.
"She wants to remain clean and continue treatment," he said. "She now has the clarity of mind to know she has made a mess of things."
Bjorklund's mother, Lisa Treuden, called her son a "survivor" from the time he was born. She said, as a boy, he endured open heart surgery. She said he was known as "the miracle baby." Treuden said her son, whom she raised alone after his father moved away, was her "man of the house." She said he was "smart, witty and compassionate" and managed to touch the lives of hundreds during his life. She said there was an overflow crowd at his funeral.
"My life has forever changed," she said, adding she slept in Bjorklund's bed for weeks after he died because it still smelled like him and this brought her comfort. "(He) had so much more to give this world."
Molkenthen told Koschnick and those gathered for the court proceeding she was sorry for what happened to Bjorklund and that she thought he was a good person.
"I never wanted this to happen," she said.
Molkenthen said she will always try to better herself, in great part, to make her daughter proud and to prove she is a good person.
"I don't want to go back to what I was doing before," she said. "I can't imagine that."
It was noted during the hearing that, although Molkenthen lacks a record of criminal conviction, she is facing additional charges in Dodge and Waukesha counties. Pending against her in Dodge County are one count each of bail jumping and possession of drug paraphernalia -- one a felony, the other a misdemeanor. She is awaiting adjudication in Waukesha County on one count each of retail theft and possession of heroin. The heroin possession charge stems from an incident in which she, herself, overdosed.
Koschnick said he was taking a number of mitigating factors into consideration in passing sentence on Molkenthen. He gave her credit for entering a plea that avoided a potentially stressful trial and said her relative youth worked in her favor. The judge also said he believed her remorse to be sincere. However, Koschnick said the risks and dangers of Molkenthen providing heroin to Bjorklund should have been easy for her to see and she dismissed them.
"You were flirting with death when you used heroin and then you gave it to others," he said.
Koschnick said he was taking into account Molkenthen was not a large-scale dealer of heroin.
"There is no evidence you profited financially," he said. "You are on the low end of the scale of dealers, but this behavior can still cause death. This was reckless behavior on your part, with a high probability of causing death."
Touching on the collateral damage of heroin in Jefferson County, Koschnick acknowledged the impact on the many people connected to the case, one of them just months old and living without her birth mother. He said the victim's family has been damaged "for life."
"Your actions," the judge said, "will have effects on others for years to come."