GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Two Clay County men accused of buying the drugs that killed an Orange Park teenager in 2016 received one-year sentences last Monday after they cooperated with a federal case against Trumaine Muller.
Tyler Hamilton and Christopher Williams appeared briefly before Fourth Circuit Court Judge Michael Sharrit. They pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge last May. They faced maximum 15-year sentences after pleading guilty to manslaughter last May following the overdose death of 18-year-old Ariell Jade Brundige in 2016.
Both were sentenced to a year in Clay County Jail, where they’ve been held since June of 2017. Both also forfeited time served.
State Attorney Jonathan Sacks read a statement from Ariell Brundige’s father, David:
“...Ultimately the actions of Mr. Hamilton, along with Mr. Williams, facilitated the death of Ms. Brundige,” Sacks read. “[David Brundige] wanted to make sure Mr. Hamilton knew how much his daughter actually cared about Mr. Hamilton as a person and how he took advantage of it.”
Hamilton’s attorney presented Sharrit with a letter from his client. The letter was added to the public record and not read before the court.
In January, Hamilton and Williams testified in federal court against Muller, who allegedly sold heroin that had been laced with fentanyl. The jury found Muller guilty on four charges, including the sale of controlled substance leading to a death, which carries a minimum life sentence.
Brundige reportedly first tried heroin on Nov. 9, Hamilton testified. Hamilton met Brundige when they worked at Cracker Barrel, and the two had been dating for about 10 days.
Williams and Hamilton testified they bought heroin from Muller, according to testimony and texts from Hamilton’s phone. Muller asked the trio to “Come through.” Other witnesses, Muller’s customers, testified that Muller had sold them heroin with small amounts of fentanyl, which led to multiple overdoses.
Prosecutors also used video of a woman buying heroin from Muller that later tested positive for traces of fentanyl, and cellular data from Brundige and Hamilton to establish their location near the apartment where Muller lived.
Hamilton was dropped off at his house at 11 p.m., and he overdosed on one-tenth of a gram of fentanyl. Williams and Brundige were sitting in a car outside and left for Williams’ residence when they learned paramedics were on the way.
Williams then injected heroin and passed out. He said he gave a small amount of heroin to Brundige before he went to retrieve Hamilton.
According to Hamilton’s testimony, when Williams and Hamilton returned around midnight Brundige had used the heroin and was sleeping. At about 1:30 a.m., Hamilton searched, “How to snap people out of opiate overdoses,” and forums on drug websites. They initially lied to paramedics and authorities about their knowledge of Brundige taking the heroin, they told the court.
Hamilton later saw Brundige vomiting in her sleep and called 911 at about 4:15 a.m. She was pronounced dead at approximately 4:45 a.m. Jacksonville Medical Examiner Valerie Rao testified that Brundige had 16 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl in her blood and she had seen fatal cases of as small as three nanograms per milliliter.
Upon release, Hamilton and Williams will have three years of drug offender probation. Muller is scheduled to be sentenced in early May.
“It’s been a long journey,” Sacks said.