SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 25-year-old man was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison for dealing a baggie of Fentanyl in Costa Mesa to a 22-year- old woman, who overdosed and died in Huntington Beach.
Matthew Benajmin Hurley of Virginia told U.S. District Judge James Selna that the defendant's own "selfish addiction" to drugs led him to deal Fentanyl to Rose Avelar on Aug. 3, 2020, in the parking lot for a Travelodge motel in Costa Mesa. Hurley pleaded guilty Sept. 19 to possession with the intent to distribute Fentanyl, which resulted in a death.
Prosecutors argued for 210 months in federal prison. Hurley's attorney, Sam Cross, argued for 10 years.
"I would like to give my condolences" to the victim's family, Hurley said. "The pain and grief I caused because of my selfish addiction is hard to swallow... I hold myself accountable 100 percent. I am deeply sorry."
Hurley pledged to stay off drugs and take advantage of classes and self-help programs while in prison.
"I want to change, and I will change," Hurley said.
Avelar's family, who came from Boston for the sentencing hearing, offered tearful statements.
The victim's mother, Michele, said her "only daughter" was "optimistic about her future" at the time of her death. She had just enrolled in college and was volunteering for a humane society charity, she said.
"Rose was a beautiful young woman," her mother said. "I miss her contagious laugh."
The victim's sister-in-law, Ann Avalar, said she knew Rose since she was a pre-teen and that her death felt "like a Mack truck driven through our family... We will never get over it. The pain of her passing is so hard to accept."
Rose had "brown hair, brown eyes and a smile that lit up a room," she said.
The victim's big brother, Austin, tearfully recounted how he has struggled with grief.
"She was my baby sister, my best friend," he said. "She died alone, far away from me and her family. The pain of her death is so deep. I feel like it will never go away."
He said his sister would often call him on FaceTime and was "so happy to show me her apartment."
The victim's father, Luiz, said, "I miss my daughter. She would call me every day. And she would always start with a question. She had such an inquisitive mind."
The victim's father said investigators told him that despite the victim's death Hurley kept dealing drugs.
Selna said he was moved by the family's testimonials.
"I listened carefully to each of the victim's family members, and this is a day I will remember for quite some time," the judge said.
But, the judge added, he also had to weigh the defendant's troubled upbringing and mental health issues.
"It doesn't excuse the crime," Selna added.
Hurley's mother and aunt and uncle traveled across the country to attend the sentencing, the defendant's attorney said.
Cross said his client had a "happy childhood" until his teens when his parents split up. He was also traumatized by finding "his friend dead in the woods," the attorney said.
The defendant bounced back and forth between both parents and never finished high school, his attorney said. When he was about 16 or 17 he got hooked on heroin and "Fentanyl came when he was 22," Cross said.
Hurley came to the Southland to seek drug rehabilitation, Cross said. But he ended up dealing to subsidize his addictions, the attorney said.