By Miles Maguire
A 33-year-old Fond du Lac woman who pleaded no contest to a charge of first degree reckless homicide in the fentanyl overdose death of an Oshkosh man last January has been sentenced to three years in prison.
The woman, Chantel C. Bergin, was arrested as part of an undercover sting operation following the man’s death.
According to a criminal complaint, the victim’s girlfriend said the two of them had purchased heroin from Bergin on several previous occasions.
“The first few times the heroin was white and would usually be one big rock,” Paige VanderWielen, 19, told police. “The most recent time that we received heroin from Chantel the heroin was little yellow balls, and it was harder to crush and it was more potent.”
A half gram of the white heroin “wouldn’t get us too high, and we would use it instantly,” VanderWielen said. “But with the most recent yellow balls it made [the overdose victim] do a lot of itching of his body, and he was also closing his eyes when he used it.”
An autopsy showed that the deceased male had fentanyl in his system. “The cause of death was found to be fentanyl toxicity,” according to the criminal complaint.
Bergin is now serving four years behind bars because her arrest led to the revocation of a deferred sentencing agreement in Calumet County.
In that 2020 case Bergin pleaded guilty to trafficking schedule IV drugs, which include substances like Xanax and Klonopin, and did not contest a charge of possessing THC. At the time of the Oshkosh overdose, she had been on probation as her prison and jail time as well as a period of supervised release were deferred.
The deferral ended in July, and Bergin is now at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, according to the Department of Corrections.
As the number of fatal overdoses goes up, the criminal justice system is handing out harsher penalties for drug suppliers.
“In almost every fatal overdose case, the individual that was the source of the drugs did not intend for someone to die,” said Winnebago County District Attorney Eric Sparr.
“Drug delivery cases are taken seriously to begin with, because of the risk that they create for others,” Sparr said. “When the worst case situation comes true and there is a fatal overdose, those cases are treated more harshly than deliveries by prosecutors, and by the courts, at sentencing. That was true in Bergin’s case.”
In a victim impact statement, the dead man’s mother said mental health treatment is needed to address the problem of illegal drug use.
“Our world is so hung up on drug use,” she said. “It will never stop till we treat the mental illness of the users and the people who sell to get money to use.”
She said that judges need “to order mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment for the individual involved to run along with a maximum punishment allowed by law.”
She also described the pain that she has been through. “My heart has been ripped from my chest,” she said. “I will never be the same again.”
Although she said she could forgive Bergin, “I will never forget what you took from me.”
A relatively new state law discourages authorities from identifying crime victims in official documents. But a published obituary from last year points to the victim being a 21-year-old whose family lives in Outagamie County.
According to online court records, this person had numerous court appearances since 2018 on charges that included disorderly conduct, battery, bail jumping and drug possession.
In a statement to police Bergin said she had been trying to “make some extra money by selling heroin.”
She said she had gotten to know the overdose victim in this case about three or four months before his death. He was staying in a house in the 1000 block of Dove Street.
A few days before the victim’s body was discovered, Bergin and a neighbor, identified in the criminal complaint as Ashley Kealey, made two deliveries of drugs to the Oshkosh man.
The first delivery happened at a Kwik Trip in Fond du Lac near Walmart, according to police. Bergin said the victim “had been on my ass all day to get him some heroin” and so she drove to Milwaukee to obtain some from a contact she had there.
But later that night Bergin said the overdose victim called “and told me that he and his girlfriend has been pulled over by the police in Oshkosh and that his girlfriend had put the heroin in her crotch.” According to court documents, the girlfriend was arrested for operating while intoxicated.
The victim “said that he was sick and he was begging for me to get him some heroin so I sent Ashley Kealey up to Oshkosh to the traffic stop so that … she could give him some heroin because he said that he was sick and because I felt that by giving him heroin it would help [him] come off his withdrawal.”
When Kealey arrived at the site of the traffic stop, on Interstate 41 near Jackson Street, she said “someone else was already there to give him a ride so I followed them to an address near Sawyer Street in Oshkosh.”
When they got to that address, Kealey told police, she gave “little yellow rocks” to the “same male that I gave drugs to earlier that night at Kwik Trip in Fond du Lac.”
Two days later the victim was found dead in an upstairs bedroom. Police said the body was “cold to the touch and had been down for some time.”
Police also said they found a cellphone they believed to belong to the deceased and that contained a text thread describing a drug transaction.
On the day that she was arrested, Bergin said that she thought she was texting with the victim, who by then had been dead for several days. She told police she made arrangements for a drug deal and agreed to deliver the drugs to Oshkosh.
According to the criminal complaint, an Oshkosh detective “had been communicating with [Bergin] in an undercover capacity arranging a heroin transaction as part of the ongoing investigation” into the overdose.
When Bergin arrived at the victim’s Dove Street residence on Feb. 2 to deliver the promised drugs, she was arrested by waiting police.
Kealey has also been charged with reckless homicide and is scheduled for trial in June.