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Man sentenced to 4 years for Edmonton man’s fentanyl overdose death

WATCH ABOVE: Jordan Yarmey was sentenced to four years behind bars for his role in the death of an Edmonton man who died of a fentanyl overdose. It was the first case where Edmonton police charged a man with manslaughter in connection to a fentanyl overdose. But in the end, it didn't stick. Julia Wong reports.

A man who pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death in the 2016 fentanyl overdose death of an Edmonton man will spend four years behind bars.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jordan Yarmey received a four-year sentence for criminal negligence causing death in the 2016 death of 33-year-old Szymon Kalich. The 28-year-old also received a three-year sentence for trafficking, to be served concurrently.

Yarmey was originally charged with manslaughter in Kalich’s death. Yarmey was the first person to be charged by Edmonton police with manslaughter in relation to a fatal fentanyl overdose.

READ MORE: Man charged with manslaughter in fentanyl overdose death pleads guilty to lesser charge

Yarmey addressed the court ahead of his sentencing, saying he is “deeply sorry” for Kalich’s passing and the role he played in it.

“It’s a horrible tragedy I wish could have been avoided.”

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The justice started her decision by saying it’s a “sad day for two families.”

“The Kalich family has lost a son. The Yarmey family will be separated from their son for some time as he takes responsibility for his role in Szymon’s death,” the justice said.

She said addiction is tearing apart people’s lives, and allows people — who may be good — to do terrible things to others.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Kalich had picked up Yarmey’s number while in a drug addictions treatment centre. The day after Kalich got out, he called Yarmey to score some fentanyl.

The two snorted a crushed-up pill and Kalich overdosed, dying on the couch while Yarmey slept, according to the court document.

Court heard Yarmey never called for help, instead he dumped Kalich’s body in the hallway.

READ MORE: Drug dealer charged with manslaughter in connection with fentanyl overdose: Edmonton police

Kalich was found dead in the hallway of Yarmey’s south Edmonton apartment building on Jan. 27, 2016. Autopsy and toxicology results confirmed Kalich died from a fentanyl overdose. At the time, police alleged Yarmey supplied the drug to Kalich, knowing it could cause harm.

Earlier this week, Yarmey pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of criminal negligence causing death.

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Two victim impact statements were read in court ahead of the sentencing Wednesday — one from Kalich’s mother and one from his father.

The Crown read Mr. Kalich’s statement to the court.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Szymon,” the statement read in part.

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“I feel anger — anger at Szymon’s loss and how he was treated with such disrespect after he died.”

READ MORE: Man charged with manslaughter in Edmonton fentanyl overdose speaks about addiction

The Crown said aggravating factors to be considered in the sentencing include the fact there was a death, the dangerous nature of the drug and how Kalich’s body was dragged into the hallway. The Crown also noted, though, that Yarmey pleaded guilty, has no criminal history and has taken efforts to rehabilitate himself and deal with his addiction.

The defence admitted this wasn’t an easy case, calling it a very serious matter. The defence also recognized that Yarmey has taken “monumental” steps to rebuild himself and has underdone treatment, addictions counselling, alcoholics anonymous meetings and psychiatric sessions.

The justice in the case told Yarmey he should be thankful to his parents, who were in court every day.

“I hope every day of your life is put towards making the world a better place,” the justice said to Yarmey, who hugged his parents before being taken away by Sheriffs.

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READ MORE: Parents of Edmonton man accused of manslaughter in fentanyl death speak out

Yarmey’s mother, Helen, said it has been a difficult three and a half years.

“As the justice said, there’s no winners. There’s not a day my son didn’t think about that death. There’s not a day we don’t wonder how much pain [the Kalich] family is going through,” she said.

“It easily could have been our situation. The situation could have been reversed.”

Helen described how her son has changed since he was first charged in 2016.

“When this happened to my son, we didn’t even know what fentanyl was. We knew something was wrong but we didn’t know what… It just took over his whole life, his addiction,” she said.

“Through his counseling, through all of the therapy he’s been through, he’s worked on the underlying causes, some mental-health issues. He’s a different person. That person, I don’t even recognize that person he was three an -a half years ago.”

She also had these words for the Kalich family.

“I’m deeply sorry for their loss. We waited for that phone call. When we got a phone call he was arrested, we thought it was a call he had died. I know what they must go through — the loss of their son. I know there’s no way we can ever make it better for them. It’s tragedy on both sides. My son will have this affect him his whole life,” Helen said.

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Jordan Yarmey’s parents speak to the media outside an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
Jordan Yarmey’s parents speak to the media outside an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday, July 24, 2019. Cam Cook, Global News

The Crown and defence had submitted a joint submission for a total sentence of four years.

Defence lawyer Timothy Dunlap said this case showcases “the destructiveness of addictions, especially of fentanyl, because it’s so unbelievably addictive.”

“This is all a huge tragedy and obviously we’re very, very sorry about what happened. It’s a very rare case because it’s really unusual that you would see someone who has taken the strides and turned their life around like Jordan has,” Dunlap said.

“The opioid crisis is very real. It touches all aspects of society,” said fellow defence lawyer James Doran.

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“It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of socio-economic status, race, religion, anything.”

Watch below: In October 2018, Yarmey spoke to Global News about his addiction and road to sobriety 

Man charged with manslaughter in connection with fentanyl death speaks out
Man charged with manslaughter in connection with fentanyl death speaks out

Dunlap expressed concern about what four years behind bars could do to Yarmey’s rehabilitation.

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“Mr. Yarmey had no prior record before being involved in all this. He’s going to be inside with seasoned criminals and it’s yet to be seen what effect that is going to have on him,” Dunlap said.

He is hopeful Yarmey will make good on the justice’s call to make the world a better place.

“I hope, first of all, he’s able to continue on with his rehabilitation… He’s already illustrated his desire to help the world, to help other people involved in this by doing the counselling he’s done.

“We can only hope that he’s going to continue that inside. I’m reasonably certain he’s going to be able to do some counselling for other inmates inside. When he emerges from this, he could be very, very effective in doing that,” Dunlap said.

Yarmey is required to provide a DNA sample. He is also prohibited from having weapons and ammunition.