UNITY, Pa. - An alleged drug dealer and the man accused of being his driver have been charged with delivering the batch of heroin authorities say killed a Unity man this year.
Michael Ulysses Peterson, 41, of Mt. Pleasant, and his driver and alleged lookout, Garrin W. Ullrich-Stiffler, 26, of Youngwood, sold the heroin that killed Peterson's cousin, Samuel Christner, 45, at the dead man's Unity home on Feb. 5, according to state police Trooper James McKenzie.
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They are charged under a recently updated state law that makes it a crime to provide a drug that results in death. Those convicted could receive 40 years in prison. The previous law carried a maximum five-year sentence.
Ullrich-Stiffler is a Youngwood public works employee who was suspended without pay on Tuesday by council. Council President Lloyd Crago declined to discuss the personnel matter.
The case began about 4 p.m. Feb. 5 when Greensburg police saw Peterson riding in his white, 1995 Dodge van and pulled it over, knowing that he had pending arrest warrants. Ullrich-Stiffler was driving the van, police said.
Police discovered Peterson in possession of 19 stamp bags of heroin marked “Rich Gang,” “Tuna Fish,” and “ESPN”; a small bag of cocaine; and $248 in cash, according to reports.
Inside the van, police confiscated four hypodermic needles, a metal spoon and a blue shoestring police believe was used as a tourniquet to shoot heroin, court records show.
At about the same time police were processing Peterson and Ullrich-Stiffler, Christner's live-in girlfriend discovered him dead in the bathroom of his home, according to court documents.
Two stamp bags of suspected heroin marked “Rich Gang” were discovered in Christner's front pants pocket, along with an empty syringe on the floor next to his body, documents indicate.
In an interview with police, Ullrich-Stiffler told investigators he drove Peterson four or five times so he could sell drugs because Peterson had a suspended driver's license. Each time, he was paid between $30 and $80, court records show.
Before they were pulled over in Greensburg on Feb. 5, the two delivered drugs to a customer at the Sheetz convenience store on Route 119 in Youngwood, police said Ullrich-Stiffler told them.
Authorities later obtained store surveillance video of the drug transaction that took place near a fuel pump and witnesses identified Peterson, Christner and Ullrich-Stiffler as being in the video.
Peterson later admitted that he sold the heroin to Christner for $50.
Both men were ordered jailed by Youngwood District Judge James Falcon after failing to post $150,000 bond each. Each is charged with criminal conspiracy, and possession of heroin with intent to deliver.
Preliminary hearings are scheduled for Sept. 9 before Falcon.
Peterson, a former Greensburg resident, has an extensive criminal history throughout Western Pennsylvania.
In 1996, Peterson was sentenced to serve up to 10 years in prison after a jury convicted him of voluntary manslaughter in the death of a 21-year-old man during an alleged crack cocaine deal in Pittsburgh's Hill District, according to court records.
Peterson said he shot the man because he feared the victim was going to pull a gun and kill him, according to reports.
Peterson was also convicted of walking into three Western Pennsylvania pharmacies with stolen prescriptions and left with the pain medicine Oxycodone.
Peterson, who police said wore a suit and tie each time he walked into the drugstores, obtained 90 Oxycodone pills on Aug. 26, 2012, from a pharmacy on East Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg, state attorney general and Greensburg investigators said.
The next month, using the alias “Harry Anderson,” Peterson got 100 of the pills from a pharmacy in Punxsutawney and 120 tablets from a Kittanning drugstore, investigators said.
Authorities became aware of Peterson after he tried to get 20 tablets still owed to him on the original prescription from the Punxsutawney drugstore, court records show.
That store's pharmacist discovered “Harry Anderson” was not a patient of the Latrobe doctor named on the prescription, authorities said.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or email@example.com.