Courts

After a Heroin Overdose Killed a Man in Plano, His Dealer Caught a 25-Year Sentence

A Plano man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he sold heroin to someone who overdosed on them.
A Plano man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he sold heroin to someone who overdosed on them. Getty Images
It wasn’t the first time Nathaniel Edward Gonzalez had sold heroin to someone who eventually overdosed.

Gonzalez, 36, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for drug trafficking last Thursday. But 16 years ago, he was convicted on almost the exact same charges.

Back in 2005, Brenden Thayer, a 16-year-old high school student at Vines High School in Plano, bought heroin from Gonzalez. Thayer overdosed on the drugs the very next day and died. Police’s investigation of the teen’s death led back to Gonzalez, who, in 2006, was sentenced to six years in prison for his connection to Thayer’s death.

After his release from prison, Gonzalez returned to Plano and got back into selling heroin. According to court documents, in early January 2019, Gonzalez sold heroin to a victim identified only as C.W. in the records. A month or so later, the Collin County medical examiner ruled that the victim had died from a heroin overdose.

Within a month of the medical examiner’s ruling, the Plano Police Department's investigation into the death led them back to Gonzalez. He pleaded guilty on March 9, 2019, to possession and distribution of heroin "that resulted in the death of an individual," according to court documents from the U.S. District Court in East Texas.

"Illegal drugs continue to damage our communities," U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston said in a press release. "We will use all our tools to arrest and prosecute those who choose to harm others by peddling their dangerous poisons."

Last summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined a coalition of states across the U.S. in settling lawsuits against the U.S.’s three largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. (People are almost 20 times as likely to start using heroin after they build up tolerance to legally prescribed opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin, studies show.)

The state will receive about $1.5 billion over nearly 18 years to fight the opioid epidemic, according to the terms of the settlements.

The city of Plano is in line for about $1.5 million worth of the state’s haul, and Collin County will get another $1.2 million. According to the terms of the settlements, local officials will control how they spend the  settlement money to fight opioid addiction and overdose.

In the mid-1990s, Plano gained national media attention for a string of teenage deaths caused by heroin overdoses. 
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Michael Murney is a reporting fellow at the Dallas Observer and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Chicago’s South Side Weekly and the Chicago Reader.
Contact: Michael Murney