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Girl’s Fatal Heroin Injection Becomes Federal Case

Published On: Dec 24 2013 11:06:24 AM AKST   Updated On: Nov 06 2013 12:19:32 PM AKST
State Charges Dropped in Girl’s Fatal Heroin Injection

Federal prosecutors are now leading an Anchorage case with state help against a former Navy medic accused of fatally injecting a 14-year-old girl with heroin in 2011.

Court records show that state prosecutors have dismissed a series of charges in the death of Jena Dolstad against Sean Michael Warner, 27, ranging from manslaughter to evidence tampering.

Warner was indicted in August on federal charges including distribution of heroin resulting in death, with another man -- 36-year-old Max Raymond Jewett -- being charged with the same offense in relation to the case. Jewett was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in Peters Creek in September.

Police say Warner attempted to inject Dolstad with drugs several times during a Dec. 28, 2011 party at his home, then took more than four hours to call 911 after she had an adverse reaction. An autopsy found heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in Dolstad’s system.

Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion, with the state district attorney's office in Anchorage, says the state charges against Warner were dismissed because federal prosecutors won't prosecute cases which are also in state court. He also says the scope of the case has changed since its transfer to federal court.

"The federal prosecution is more wide-ranging than the one we've been prosecuting in state court, and we've been working with the federal prosecutors for several months now," Campion said.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay, the federal prosecutor in the Warner case, Regan Williams -- the state's lead prosecutor against Warner -- has been deputized as a special assistant U.S. attorney. She says only one other Alaska prosecutor, in Fairbanks, has ever been similarly deputized.

"We didn't want to lose his skills and knowledge of the case," Sayers-Fay said.

Sayers-Fay says she is working closely with Williams as the case move forward, an approach which reflects prosecutors' deliberations on how to proceed.

"That was a collaborative decision between state and federal prosecutors, because we thought the federal forum was more advantageous," Sayers-Fay said. "It is very much a hand-in-hand effort."

While the state case against Warner was limited to the circumstances of Dolstad's death, Sayers-Fay says federal laws allow for the prosecution of multiple people -- such as Jewett -- allegedly involved in the production or sale of drugs used in major crimes.

"We can charge all the folks in that chain," Sayers-Fay said. "It is a broader case in the federal forum, both in the number of charges and the number of defendants."

Sayers-Fay dismisses any implication of weakness in the case, saying the switch constitutes a "team-up and hammer" approach to Warner by state and federal prosecutors.

"This is not a good turn of events for him," Sayers-Fay said.

None of the federal charges against Warner or Jewett carry the death penalty, but Sayers-Fay says distribution of heroin resulting in death carries a mandatory sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Jail records show that Warner remains in custody at the Cook Inlet Pretrial Facility in Anchorage.

Channel 2’s Kortnie Horazdovsky contributed information to this story.