MINNEAPOLIS - A Twin Cities heroin dealer has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the overdose deaths of two men and still faces murder charges in the drug-related deaths of three others.
Beverly Burrell of Maplewood was convicted of third-degree murder in the death of Max Tillitt and Luke Ronnei, who she sold heroin tainted with fentanyl. Their family members shared with Hennepin County District Judge Paul Scoggin how they live with the never-ending pain of losing a loved one to heroin addiction.
Max Tillet's father Steve spoke about how his son played baseball, basketball, football and the piano. He did well in school and wrote poetry for his girlfriend. Tillet says that all changed his junior year in high school when Max suffered a concussion during football practice and he began to seek relief. After 10 months as a heroin addict, Max went into drug rehab to get clean, his father said, and he was doing better. His fiancée had recently given birth to their baby boy, but on Sept. 25, 2015, Max bought heroin from the 31-year-old Burrell in a Perkins parking lot in Minneapolis, drove to an Eden Prairie motel, injected the heroin in front of his fiancée and baby and died.
Luke Ronnei's family told the court how their son seemed to have kicked his addiction and was healthy and happy at Arizona State University. They worried about him coming home for the Christmas holiday where he could fall back into his old habits and were pleased when he said he was going camping with friends in Australia instead. However, he returned home from the trip on Jan. 6 and immediately called Burrell and met her at the same restaurant parking lot to buy heroin. He returned to his parent’s home and was found dead in his room the next morning, just 18 hours after getting off the plane.
His mother, Colleen, cried while describing her late 20-year-old son and how he always was helping people and sharing what he had with others, including buying extra submarine sandwiches for a homeless man on the college campus.
Hennepin County Attorney Thad Tudor asked Scoggin to impose a sentence of more than 17 years in prison, combined. He pointed out that Burrell knew she was killing people and said she is “the most prolific dealer we have seen in Hennepin County.”
Burrell got a chance to address the court, insisting she would not sell drugs again and saying that she prays for the families of the victims as well as for forgiveness and healing.
“I am asking for another chance,” Burrell said. “I’m a good person. I am not a monster.”
Judge Scoggin noted Burrell had a difficult life from the beginning, including having a family member die from a drug overdose. “You fed them the same poison that had caused hardship in your family,” he said before imposing the sentence of 86 months in the death of Ronnei and 86 months in the death of Tillett, running them consecutively for a total of 172 months or slightly more than 14 years.
Burrell still faces third-degree murder charges for selling heroin that killed three other men, two in Hennepin County and one in Sherburne County, Her next trial is set to begin December 18. .