Lake Ariel woman sentenced to up to seven years in prison for drug death

Terrie Morgan-Besecker, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
·3 min read

May 4—A Lake Ariel woman who admitted to selling fentanyl-laced heroin that killed her friend will spend up to seven years in state prison.

Jennifer Wanamaker, 42, was sentenced Tuesday to 21 to 84 months for her guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter and criminal use of a communication facility in connection with the death of Marcus Santarelli of Blakely.

Santarelli, 31, was found unresponsive in a bathroom in the 900 block of Lincoln Avenue in Blakely on Dec. 13, 2019. He died four days later at a hospital.

Police were led to Wanamaker after searching Santarelli's cellphone and saw that a person known as "Scoobs Jen" offered to sell him heroin. That number belonged to Wanamaker.

The sentence was at the high end of the sentencing guidelines, which had a standard range of nine to 26 months in prison.

In emotional testimony before Lackawanna County Judge Michael Barrasse, Santarelli's fiancé, Jennifer Franco, and aunt, Maryann Veno, described the devastation of his death.

"Jennifer Wanamaker's poor choices, careless actions and unfortunate lack of decency and remorse ... forever altered more lives than she will ever comprehend," Franco said. "She destroyed hearts, hopes and dreams."

Santarelli struggled with addiction for years, but was on the right path and looking forward to raising his daughter with Franco, who was the "love of his life," Veno said.

Veno's son, A.J., also died of a drug overdose in 2017. She urged Barrasse to impose a stiff sentence to deter other drug dealers.

"They are not sorry for doing what they did. They're sorry for getting caught," Veno said. "If we get these drug dealers off of the road, we could save a life."

Wanamaker sobbed as she apologized to Santarelli's family, describing how her battle with addiction turned her into a person she no longer recognized.

"I'm so sorry I was not strong enough to fight my addiction that night," she said. "Marcus was my friend. I will carry the guilt of what my addiction did to the Santarelli family for the rest of my life."

Two of Wanamaker's sister's pleaded for mercy, describing an abusive upbringing that led her to drug use.

"I know the reason she is where she is now is she never had anyone give her a chance," said her sister, Leslie Ackerman. "It doesn't make an excuse for things that happened, but she has learned from that. If you give her a chance to go to rehab, she can do better in this world."

In imposing the sentence, Barrasse said he's a strong believer in rehabilitation, but he was compelled to impose a sentence at the high range of the guidelines.

"The court has to look at the fact a life was taken because of your actions," Barrasse said. "While we truly hope you access rehabilitation upon your release, the court has to look at both the punitive, as well as deterrence aspects of sentencing."

In addition to the prison sentence, Barrasse ordered Wanamaker to serve four years probation upon release.

Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter.