Skippack man sent to pri­son for overdose death of Perkiomen man.

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> Her grief still pal­pa­ble for the 20-year-old son she lost to a fa­tal fen­tanyl overdose last year, a Perkiomen woman tear­fully ac­cepted an apol­ogy from the man who sold her son the drug dur­ing an emo­tion-filled hear­ing.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the apol­ogy. I know you didn’t mean for him to die. We don’t have ill will to­ward you,” Jen­nifer Ser­vice ad­dressed Pa­trick Ryan Yah­ner dur­ing a poignant and dra­matic mo­ment in Mont­gomery County Court on Oct. 3 be­fore Yah­ner was sen­tenced to 4 to 8 years in pri­son in con­nec­tion with the April 2017 overdose death of Justin C. Ser­vice.

Mo­ments ear­lier, Yah­ner, 20, of the 3800 block of Cen­ter Av­enue, Skippack, ex­pressed re­morse and said his own drug ad­dic­tion fu­eled his de­ci­sion to sell fen­tanyl to Justin, who was a friend. Yah­ner was 19 at the time of the crime.

“I re­al­ize that my ad­dic­tion was so hor­ri­ble that it caused a lot of peo­ple a lot of hurt. I wish I’d never done it,” said Yah­ner, his voice quiv­er­ing with emo­tion at times. “I never meant for this to hap­pen. I’m re­ally sorry. This is noth­ing short of a tragedy. If you don’t for­give me, I un­der­stand be­cause I took away some­thing you’ll never get back.”

When Yah­ner in­di­cated he wants to live a sober life and one day speak to other young peo­ple about the dan­gers of drug use, Jen­nifer Ser­vice of­fered to go to speak­ing en­gage­ments with him.

“He was a good kid but he was ad­dicted too, so I un­der­stand where you’re com­ing from,” Jen­nifer Ser­vice wept as she spoke di­rectly to Yah­ner. “I just miss my son and I wish I could hug him and see him again.”

In June, Yah­ner pleaded guilty to a felony charge of drug de­liv­ery re­sult­ing in death in con­nec­tion with the April 9, 2017, fa­tal overdose of Justin Ser­vice, a 2014 grad­u­ate of Perkiomen Val­ley High School. In fash­ion­ing the sen­tence, Judge Todd D. Eisen­berg said he took into ac­count Yah­ner’s re­morse, his lack of a prior crim­i­nal record and his co­op­er­a­tion with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

“I truly be­lieve you are sorry for what you did. But some­body died in this case and they died as a re­sult of your ac­tions,” Eisen­berg ad­dressed Yah­ner as he im­posed the pri­son sen­tence.

Yah­ner’s mother, Karen Dwyer, de­scribed her son as “a kind boy” and said that when he was in throes of his ad­dic­tion “he wasn’t Pa­trick.” She ex­pressed her sym­pa­thy and sad­ness to the Ser­vice fam­ily.

“If he knew that was go­ing to kill him he wouldn’t have given it to him. I am truly sorry that we all have to go through this,” Dwyer tes­ti­fied.

As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Tonya Lupinacci said the Ser­vice fam­ily didn’t come to court seek­ing ret­ri­bu­tion or the max­i­mum sen­tence but sought jus­tice and also re­morse from Yah­ner.

“The fam­ily of Justin Ser­vice rec­og­nizes and be­lieves that Pa­trick Yah­ner’s ad­dic­tion fu­eled his ac­tions. How­ever, they also be­lieve that he’s re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions and that jus­tice needed to be served,” Lupinacci said.

Lupinacci said the Ser­vice fam­ily hopes that when Yah­ner is paroled that he keeps his prom­ise to tell his story about his ad­dic­tion and about the con­se­quences of his ac­tions of deal­ing a lethal dose of fen­tanyl to an­other per­son.

“No­body wins in this case. But th­ese cases are so im­por­tant to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims. They know they’ll never see their son again. They know no amount of time that the judge can give the de­fen­dant will bring back their son,” Lupinacci said. “They re­ceived jus­tice, they feel a mes­sage was sent to oth­ers that if you deal drugs in Mont­gomery County and some­one dies as a re­sult, you’ll be pros­e­cuted and we will seek a lengthy pri­son sen­tence.”

De­fense lawyer Bren­dan Camp­bell called the case “a real tragedy,” adding Yah­ner is ex­tremely re­morse­ful.

“This is a prod­uct of the opi­oid epi­demic. This case is a real tragedy in the fact you had one per­son die and an­other who is go­ing to be in jail a long time,” said Camp­bell, who stressed mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors in the case. “Pa­trick Yah­ner was an ad­dict. He isn’t the av­er­age drug dealer who sells fen­tanyl, whether it’s a gram or an ounce or a pound…my client was an ad­dict deal­ing drugs to get his next fix.”

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan about 11:10 a.m. April 9, 2017, when state po­lice at Skippack re­sponded to a Tu­dor Road home in Perkiomen for a re­ported drug overdose and found Justin Ser­vice dead in the base­ment of the res­i­dence. Court doc­u­ments in­di­cate Ser­vice was dis­cov­ered un­re­spon­sive in the base­ment by a rel­a­tive.

An au­topsy de­ter­mined Ser­vice died of fen­tanyl tox­i­c­ity and the man­ner of death was ruled ac­ci­den­tal.

Prose­cu­tors said fen­tanyl is sim­i­lar to mor­phine but is 50 to 100 times more po­tent.

Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­tec­tives ex­am­ined Ser­vice’s cell­phone and de­ter­mined Ser­vice had text mes­sage con­ver­sa­tions with Yah­ner be­gin­ning at 9:09 p.m. April 8. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tions, Ser­vice asked Yah­ner, “U got f” to which Yah­ner replied, “we can get it in Skippack,” ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed by state po­lice Trooper Barry Ber­to­let and county De­tec­tive Paul Brad­bury.

De­tec­tives who an­a­lyzed the “coded” text mes­sages al­leged Ser­vice was ask­ing Yah­ner if he had fen­tanyl for sale and Ser­vice in­di­cated he had $20 to pur­chase the drugs, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Yah­ner al­legedly ini­tially told Ser­vice that he would try to get two bags for $20 but later texted Ser­vice that it cost him $40 to pur­chase fen­tanyl.

Court doc­u­ments in­di­cate that the pair met out­side a store in Trappe where the drug de­liv­ery took place about 10:45 p.m. April 8. Ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, sent an­other text mes­sage to Yah­ner at 11:13 p.m., telling Yah­ner he liked the con­trolled sub­stances that were sold to him.

When Yah­ner was con­fronted by de­tec­tives about the text mes­sage con­ver­sa­tions, he ad­mit­ted he ob­tained four un­marked bags from his sup­plier which he gave to Ser­vice in ex­change for $40 and he said Ser­vice gave him two of the bags, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

“Yah­ner told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he was the one that pro­vided the fen­tanyl to Ser­vice that killed him,” Ber­to­let and Brad­bury wrote in the ar­rest af­fi­davit. “Yah­ner told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he knew the meet­ing with Ser­vice oc­curred in April be­cause it was the an­niver­sary of an­other friend that over­dosed and died the pre­vi­ous year.”

“I never meant for this to hap­pen. I’m re­ally sorry. This is noth­ing short of a tragedy. If you don’t for­give me, I un­der­stand be­cause I took away some­thing you’ll never get back.” — Pa­trick Ryan Yah­ner


Pa­trick Ryan Yah­ner, 20, of Skippack is es­corted by sher­iff’s deputy from Mont­gomery County court­room where he was sen­tenced to 4 to 8 years in pri­son for April 2017 overdose death of Justin Ser­vice, 20, of Perkiomen.

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