• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Man sentenced to 28 years in prison for fatal overdose

A 29-year-old man was sentenced to 28 years in prison for distributing a counterfeit pill that caused the overdose death of a Woodford County woman, the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky announced in a news release. Luis Aguirre-Jerardo pled guilty to distributing about 25 counterfeit pills to Gill Dewayne Garrett. He's serving 20 years in prison for selling one of those pills, which were marked to resemble oxycodone, but instead contained the more potent fentanyl (an opioid as much as 50 times stronger than heroin) to Jolene Bowman. She died of a drug overdose after ingesting the pill on July 1, 2015, according to the release. "It really gave us a feeling of relief - not only for our family, but for the community because we know now that justice will be served for our community," said Jennifer Powell. Bowman's older sister was in court for Aguirre-Jerardo's sentencing on Aug. 16. He and Garrett each pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. Garrett was given a 20-year prison sentence last December. Aguirre-Jerardo was sentenced to 28 years in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell last week. Both must serve 85 percent of their prison terms. "This case is a direct result of the launch of our Overdose Prosecution Initiative and has taken both a dangerous drug dealer and his source of supply off our streets for a very long time," said Carlton S. Shier, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. In the aftermath of the criminal investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Versailles Police Department, and court proceedings, Powell said, "I feel much better inside about our judicial system ... Seeing firsthand what they're trying to do." She said being able to witness the prosecutions of the two men involved in the overdose death of her sister was like having "a weight lifted off of my shoulders." "I just feel like, maybe, there was a little bit of justice done. Not just for my sister, but for everyone else - all of the other people who have died from drug overdoses also, and their families," said Powell. She knows removing two drug dealers from her community's streets and neighborhoods has saved lives, while also recognizing that other families will never get a sense of justice that her family has been given in the wake of the criminal prosecutions of Aguirre-Jerardo and Garrett. "These convictions," she said, "weren't just for my family. They were for all of those people who were affected" by a drug overdose in their family. After seeing a second man sentenced to prison for his role in her sister's overdose death, this wife and mom remembers sitting in her car and telling herself, "My next step is to try to find me. And with this behind me - maybe, maybe I can find who I was the day before it happened." She knows her sister's overdose "completely altered so many worlds around her. And we have to look for the good in every bad thing that happens, and that's what we're doing," she said. Powell remains actively involved with the Heroin Education Action Team (HEAT), a partnership of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky and families who have lost loved ones to overdose. "We're growing larger and larger," she said, "because unfortunately there are so many more people affected by addiction and drug overdose that are coming forward. And I think that's a very strong thing. Because the more of us that speak out, (we) might give a helping hand to not just to someone who is afflicted by addiction, but to their family members..." These families may learn from her and other loved ones of addicts who made a mistake whenever they didn't see a bad choice being made by a sister or brother, father or mother, said Powell, who remains actively involved with Raising Awareness Woodford County (RAW), because lives are saved when families come forward to join this fight against drug addiction in their community.

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