- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - The parents of a woman who died of a heroin overdose earlier this year are seeking leniency for a man convicted of having supplied the drugs.

Ken and Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, both pastors who have always favored a restorative rather than a punitive approach to justice, are asking Centre County prosecutors and a judge to impose a sentence emphasizing treatment and recovery support for Ryan Kemp, 28, The Centre Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1zlz9zt ) reported.

Police said Elizabeth Kline Smeltzer, 21, died in Kemp’s home early Jan. 25, and he had gone to Williamsport a day earlier to pick up heroin and clonazepam and invited her over to use the drugs. Kemp is scheduled to be sentenced Monday on October convictions of manufacture and possession with intent to deliver and drug delivery resulting in death.

“Unless someone lives with addiction issues, it’s easy to say, ‘Lock him up and throw away the key,’ ” Bonnie Kline Smeltzer said.

Public defender Casey McClain said the maximum penalty for delivery resulting in death charge is 40 years, and although there is no mandatory minimum, the bottom end of the standard range for someone with no prior record is five years.

“The shame about this crime is that it so harshly punishes people who are most likely drug addicts themselves,” McClain told the paper in an email.

The Kline Smeltzers say their daughter had struggled with addiction and was ultimately responsible for her own actions, and they never had any animosity toward Kemp. They say they are trying to turn their anger and pain into something positive so other young people aren’t lost to drug abuse. They favor a maximum two-year term with drug treatment and recovery support in prison and upon release.

“For me, what would honor my daughter’s life is for Ryan to deal with his addiction, to get out of jail and to have a productive, meaningful life,” Bonnie Kline Smeltzer said. “That would honor Lizzie.”

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller called the Klin Smeltzers’ intentions “admirable” and said her office seeks the views of victims and their families but must also consider other factors, such as the law and sentencing guidelines.

“The reality is that this is a very serious charge and his actions directly resulted in her death, and the Legislature takes that seriously and my office takes that seriously,” she said.

The Kline Smeltzers said they hope the handling of the case might lead to treating drug addiction as a disease rather than a crime. Setting up a drug or treatment court, as other counties have done, would give others a chance to become productive members of the community afterward, they said.

“It’s much bigger than Lizzie and Ryan,” Bonnie Kline Smeltzer said. “It’s about a bigger picture with the heroin.”


Information from: Centre Daily Times, https://www.centredaily.com

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