Woman receives prison sentence for role in fatal overdose

Dec. 23—MANKATO — The woman who supplied fentanyl used in a man’s overdose death last year in Mankato received a prison sentence Thursday at a hearing in which the victim’s family shared how they’re still reeling from his loss.

Anna Marie Bailey, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree murder charge in September, is set to serve about two-thirds of a three-year sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee. Third-degree murder indicates Bailey, 61, was found to have unintentionally caused 21-year-old Travis Gustavson’s death through the distribution of an unlawful substance.

During her victim impact statement in Blue Earth County District Court, Gustavson’s mother, Kim Gustavson, said Bailey needed to be held accountable for her role in his death.

“Every day I wake up to this horrific nightmare,” she said of her loss. ” … When his heart stopped, my heart broke into a million pieces.”

Gustavson’s family and friends expressed their hope for a longer prison sentence for Bailey, contrasting her three years to the “death sentence” that he received and the lifetimes they’ll spend grieving him.

“We’re all suffering a life sentence without him,” said his step-father, Jason Lange.

Family and friends also spoke about the weddings, births and other life events they won’t get to share with Gustavson. More than one described themselves as “broken” by his absence, saying they still have each other but will never be the same without him.

His grandmother, Nancy Sack, said they’ll all learn to move forward without him but will never move on from him.

“We’ll never forget him,” she said. “We’ll never let anyone forget him because his life mattered.”

Prosecuting attorney Todd Kosovich said the family’s support and involvement throughout the case was “unparalleled” in his more than three decades of experience in courtrooms. Since Gustavson’s death, the family has led community efforts to de-stigmatize addiction and make overdose reversal medication more accessible.

The case against Bailey was the latest in a string of murder charges against fentanyl suppliers in the Mankato area. Along with Bailey’s conviction, a second alleged supplier, Max Leo Miller, 23, was also charged with third-degree murder related to the fatal overdose. Miller’s next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often laced in heroin and other illicit drugs, drove Minnesota’s 22% uptick in fatal overdoses in 2021, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Bailey’s sentencing hearing was originally set for November before a positive COVID-19 case led to the postponement. The victim’s family was distraught when the November sentencing was rescheduled, and on Thursday accused Bailey of showing no remorse for her role in Gustavson’s death.

Elizabeth Levine, Bailey’s public defender, told the court that Bailey has worked to better herself by achieving 10 months of sobriety. Like Gustavson, Bailey was an addict when the death occurred, Levine said.

“It’s not nothing to go to prison for 36 months,” she said. “She does understand that a young man lost his life and she has remorse for that.”

When asked if she wanted to make a statement in court, Bailey said she was “very sorry” about his death, adding “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Letters submitted to the court attest to Bailey receiving treatment for substance abuse. Two managers and a chemical dependency technician at Restoration Counseling and Community Services wrote in support of her, with one stating Bailey “is serious about her recovery and is committed to changing her life for the better.”

Bailey plans to do volunteer work in her community “with troubled teenagers that are going down the wrong path and are in need of guidance,” the letter continued.

In handing down Bailey’s sentence, Judge Mark Edward Betters acknowledged that a presentencing investigation and the victim’s family called for longer time in prison. The three-year term agreed to in the guilty plea, he noted, took into account likely hurdles in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if the case went to trial.

He ordered Bailey to be taken into custody immediately after the hearing. She’s credited with 43 days already served.

After the sentencing, Kim Gustavson said she felt numb.

“There will never be justice for Travis because Travis is gone,” she said. “We’ll never get him back.”

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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