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Dakota County attorney calls 180-day sentence for girl's overdose death "unfortunate"

Minnesota sees surge in fentanyl deaths
Minnesota sees surge in fentanyl deaths 00:34

MINNEAPOLIS — A Bloomington man has been sentenced to nearly six months in jail for his role in the overdose death of a 15-year-old West St. Paul girl two years ago.

Parker Benson, 19, was convicted of third-degree murder in February for selling a young girl the fentanyl pills that caused her death.

Court documents say the two spoke via text message and met outside a Walgreens pharmacy in West St. Paul on the evening of April 19, 2022. Benson would text her again later that evening with a warning to "only take like less than a quarter" of a pill.

The girl's mother discovered her daughter facedown on her bed with a pill next to her. She attempted to perform CPR on her until first responders arrived. A subsequent toxicology report revealed fentanyl in the girl's blood.

RELATED: Family fights for wide availability of fentanyl test strips following daughter's death

Benson entered a straight guilty plea and did not reach a plea agreement for the sentencing. The state agreed to cap the prison sentence to 74 months — just over six years. Judge Cynthia McCollum sentenced Benson to 180 days in prison followed by up to 10 years of probation. He also has to complete a substance abuse program.

Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena expressed her feelings regarding the length of the sentence on Thursday.

"Today's sentencing is unfortunate and a disappointment as a young girl lost her life due to the actions of Mr. Benson," Keena said. "Dakota County is not immune to illicit fentanyl poisoning and it's taking too many young lives in our community. My deepest sympathies to the victim's family members, friends and loved ones."

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health says fentanyl was involved in more than 90% of all opioid-related deaths and more than 60% of all overdose deaths in 2022.

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