Court Report

MOUNT VERNON — A 26-year-old Mount Vernon man was sentenced Wednesday to four years, three months in prison after pleading guilty to controlled substance homicide.

John Dennis Mendieta was arrested in November 2018 after a monthslong investigation revealed he sold the pills the killed 27-year-old Ronald Schweigert of Mount Vernon.

Schweigert died in May of that year after taking pills he thought were Percocet, but were actually counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl — a synthetic opioid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

“Our world as we knew it died along with our son,” Schweigert’s mother wrote in a statement read in court by Ronald Schweigert’s uncle. “There are no words to describe the pain of losing a child.”

Friends and family in the courtroom held large photos of Schweigert — whose motto was “Be excellent to each other” — during the hearing. He had been a light in the lives of his family and friends, his mother wrote.

She also decried the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the country, saying more needs to be done to inform people of the dangers of the pills, particularly the deadly counterfeit ones.

“No one should have to die seeking pain relief,” she wrote. “There is no reason another family should have to suffer this tragedy.”

For his part, Mendieta apologized, saying that instead of helping his friend who was struggling, he made a mistake he will regret for the rest of his life.

“What you were selling, pure and simple, was death,” Skagit County Superior Court Judge David Svaren said.

More than a dozen people have died from fentanyl in Skagit County in the past two years.

Three other people in the Skagit County Community Justice Center are awaiting trial on controlled substance homicide related to the deaths of four people.

Mendieta’s sentence is on the low end of the sentencing range, which Svaren said he agreed to in part because Mendieta had early on accepted responsibility for his role in Schweigert’s death.

Upon completion of his sentence, Mendieta will serve one year of community custody.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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