Heroin dealer who played part in Keizer woman's fatal overdose gets 18 years in prison

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Everton Bailey Jr.
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Article date: 
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
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The death of Ron Putnam's daughter hits him just as hard today as when she died three years ago.

Four days after the April 2012 fatal heroin overdose of Laurin Putnam, authorities arrested at least half a dozen drug dealers suspected of being part of a heroin supply chain...

Seven men faced federal charges and another three were accused in Marion County Circuit Court. The state charges against the trio have been dismissed, court records show, and Tuesday marked the federal sentencing of the second of the seven remaining suspects.

The lengthy criminal proceedings have worn on the 21-year-old's family, Ron Putnam said....

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon sentenced Gerardo Chalke-Lopez, 40, to 18 years in prison Tuesday for conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in the death of another person, and for illegal re-entry....

The federal prosecutions are under the Len Bias law, named after a University of Maryland basketball player who died of a cocaine overdose in 1986. The law enables prosecutors to seek stiffer penalties against people involved in the distribution of a drug that leads to a fatal overdose.

Jose Aldana Soto, 33, was sentenced April 8 to three years and 10 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in the death of another person. Sergio Quezada Lopez, Chalke-Lopez's younger brother, is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Court records show Christopher Wood, 22; Rigoberto "Jose" Romo Gonzalez, 25; Julian Hernandez Castillo, 34; and Carlos "Braulio" Acosta Mendoza, 36, have all pleaded guilty to charges linked to Putnam's death...

Laurin Putnam was found dead in her apartment two days after she moved into it. Prosecutors said the West Salem High School graduate first started taking painkillers to help recover from an injury related to playing softball and her addiction to the medication later led to heroin use.

Chalke-Lopez ran a heroin trafficking operation that went through Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nevada, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Bickers.  He has been the target of state and federal investigators for 10 years for drug-related offenses, she said.

Chalke-Lopez went by "La Loca," which means the crazy woman in Spanish, Bickers said. He has been deported to his native Mexico three times since 2006, a government's sentencing memo said. In that same year, he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin.

In 2010, Multnomah County Sheriff's investigators stopped Chalke-Lopez in a vehicle later determined to have more than a pound and a half of heroin hidden inside, but he was released before the drugs were found, the memo said.

Chalke-Lopez's brother, Quezada-Lopez, 35, was one of the half-dozen arrested since after Putnam's death. Chalke-Lopez was arrested three months later...

...Chalke-Lopez was recorded telling someone that he planned to cause harm to a person who cooperated with authorities against his younger sibling and referenced where the informant's family lived in Mexico, the memo said.

The possible danger Chalke-Lopez posed to those who aided investigators made him a huge threat, Bickers said.

The arrest of his brother and death of Putnam didn't deter the older sibling, according to Bickers. He continued working with another high-level heroin trafficker and others up until his arrest, where he was found with more than a pound of heroin.

The Putnam family is still learning how to deal with the loss of Laurin, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kemp Strickland. The 21-year-old's mother, Julie, who was also in court Tuesday, has struggled with anxiety, depression, alcohol and other issues brought on by the grief of her daughter's death...

Bickers recommended 18 years in prison for Chalke-Lopez. Tyl Bakker, Chalke-Lopez's attorney, asked the judge to impose an 11-year sentence. He said his client has a drug addiction himself and that his age and prior lack of incarceration should be taken into account.

Chalke-Lopez asked Simon for leniency and a chance at redemption....

After the sentencing, Chalke-Lopez shuffled out of the courtroom under the glares of Ron and Julie Putnam....