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'Another loss won't help this': Judge orders probation for Park City teen in 'pink' deaths

FILE"” Treasure Mountain Junior High in Park City on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Probation and treatment was ordered Friday for a Park City teenager who procured the deadly synthetic opiate "pink" from China, leading to the overdose deaths of two 13-yea
FILE"” Treasure Mountain Junior High in Park City on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Probation and treatment was ordered Friday for a Park City teenager who procured the deadly synthetic opiate "pink" from China, leading to the overdose deaths of two 13-year-old boys who were students at the school.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Park City lost two teenagers, 13-year-old best friends, within days of each other to dangerous drug overdoses last fall. The community doesn't want to lose another.

As she described the rippling impact her son's death has had even beyond his friends and family, Gillian Ainsworth told the teenager responsible for procuring the dangerous synthetic opiate that her "most fervent wish" is for him to receive treatment.

"You're a 15- or 16-year-old troubled boy who made some really poor choices with dire consequences," Ainsworth said, turning to face the boy in a Park City courtroom Friday. "We have lost two bright 13-year-old boys to this tragedy. Let's not make it a third."

The mother also thanked the teen for the apology he offered Friday in court, where he admitted to acquiring the deadly drug but claimed he was not personally responsible for giving it to the younger boys.

The teenager admitted in juvenile court to reckless endangerment, a class C misdemeanor, while prosecutors agreed to drop a second-degree felony charge of distribution of a controlled or counterfeit substance.

Thanking Ainsworth for her sentiment, 3rd District Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Knight said she agreed, ordering probation for the teen and urging him to seek treatment as he deals with this tragedy for what she expects will be the rest of his life.

"I hope you're getting the help you need because that is a lot of weight to bear on your shoulders," Knight told the boy. "Getting your life in order is the best thing you can do because having another loss won't help this."

Looking toward the courtroom gallery, the judge also acknowledged that no sentence can make up for the lives that have been lost.

Charges in the case are tied to the deaths of Grant Seaver and his friend, Ryan Ainsworth, who were found dead within 48 hours of each other in September.

Toxicology findings released in November confirmed that the two Treasure Mountain Junior High School students died of acute drug intoxication of U-47700, the synthetic opioid known as "pink" or "pinky."

According to police, the teen, who was 15 at the time, bought the drug on the "dark web" and had it mailed from China, arranging for it to be shipped to another teen's house to avoid suspicion from his parents.

At the time of the boys' deaths, U-47700 was not an illegal substance. On Oct. 7, the highly potent and fast-acting opiate was classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning it is a substance with no known medical benefit.

The Deseret News has chosen not to identify the 16-year-old.

Tara Isaacson, the teen's attorney, emphasized the remorse her young client has shown and the prolific opiate problem in this and other communities.

The 16-year-old and other Park City teens were becoming addicted to opiates, Isaacson said, and in search of something to satisfy their growing need, her "tech-savvy" client located the drug online.

"A group of kids had an idea for an alternative to opiates because they were having trouble finding opiates in the community," she said.

Despite the fact that U-47700 was not illegal at the time, Isaacson said her client "should have known that this was a crazy, reckless thing to do."

Isaacson told the judge her client understands the role he played in Grant's and Ryan's deaths, and she explained that his parents have gone to "extraordinary lengths" to get treatment for him.

"We can't change what happened here. Hopefully this case will be a warning to people in this community and others," she said.

Following the boys' deaths in September, Park City police and the school district almost immediately sent out warnings to parents concerning the synthetic opioid. Police searched lockers at the middle school, while school officials set up a system to keep track of other at-risk students.

Grant's father, Jim Seaver, made an emotional plea to the judge not to show leniency in the case, calling the teen a "repeat offender" with a known pattern of substance abuse and extensive knowledge about the dangers surrounding the drugs he was introducing to others.

"There is a long-documented pattern of him being a drug user, a drug dealer, a drug aficionado. He had all the information of the lethality of the drugs that killed two kids, and that's not being addressed," Seaver said.

He also alleged that efforts by the boy's parents to help him in the past have been unsuccessful and said they shouldn't be allowed to determine again which treatment he will receive.

As Seaver hurled accusations at the teen — including a claim that he had, in fact, personally given the drug to his son — he was regularly interrupted by objections from the boy's attorney, and at one moment, the boy's mother in the courtroom gallery.

In her statement, Grant's mother, Deborah Seaver, described the talented and loving boy her son had been. She lamented the loss the family, and especially Grant's older brother, has faced since his death. Her son's bright future was cut short, she said.

"Whatever he would have amounted to, nobody knows," she said.

Deborah Seaver also asked the judge to order Park City police to hand over information the family has been requesting about the case, saying, "I still don't know what happened to my son."

The 16-year-old was also ordered Friday to complete the in-patient substance abuse treatment his parents have had him in for the past seven months, pay a $175 fine and perform 80 hours of community service.

If he does not meet his obligations or tests positive for drugs during random testing required for his probation, a suspended 30-day sentence in a juvenile detention facility will be imposed.

At the request of prosecutors, the teen will also be prohibited during treatment and probation from using the internet for anything other than schoolwork and communicating with his family.

In his remarks, Jim Seaver bemoaned the 80 hours of suggested community service as insufficient.

"When I do the calculation, that's like one week of work for each dead kid. For me, that's not feasible," he said.

Following the hearing, prosecutor Patricia Cassell called the deal an appropriate resolution to the case and likely an identical outcome to what would have happened if it had proceeded to a trial in juvenile court. Prosecutors said early on they didn't intend to seek for the teen to face the charges as an adult.

Cassell also acknowledged the challenge prosecutors would have faced proving in court that the then-legal U-47700 was a controlled substance.

"I've done a lot of really sad cases, but I think this one just impacted everybody," she said. "We hear it from other kids in the community that these events … really impacted their behavior when it happened, and continues to impact their behavior. They lost friends, they lost classmates, and because it's a small community, I think the impact was just so much greater."