- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A suburban Philadelphia man has been sentenced to 3½ to 10 years in prison for the murder of a friend that authorities said was committed while the defendant was under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Joseph Romano, 21, of Bensalem was sentenced Friday in Bucks County Court in the March 30 stabbing death of 19-year-old Jacob Simmers, the Bucks County Courier Times (https://bit.ly/1CeMFsm ) reported. He pleaded guilty last month to third-degree murder, aggravated assault and related counts.

Prosecutors said the longtime friends had attended a party at which Romano took the hallucinogen, but he began behaving erratically while being driven home and was later found standing over Simmers with a knife.

Romano told the judge Friday that he had taken mushrooms before with no ill effects, but his experience was radically different this time.

“I perceived him as evil because of the drugs,” said Romano. “I miss him every night. I see him in my dreams.”

During the trial, several people who were at the party said Romano had shown no signs of aggression. Many also noted the friendly relationship he had with Simmers.

Simmers’ sister, Erica, said her brother would have forgiven Romano, noting that his last words were to let Romano live.

Judge Clyde Waite said the case wasn’t one of “pure good on one side and pure evil on the other.” He said that while he believed that the defendant hadn’t intended to kill his friend, “but nonetheless, he’s dead.”

Prosecutor Alan Garabedian read aloud an autobiography the victim had done as a school assignment and which ended with some advice for young people.

“No matter where you are in life, you have the power to turn it around,” he said. “No matter how hard it may seem, it’s worth it.”

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Information from: Bucks County Courier Times, https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com

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