Updated law means 2 accused of delivering fatal heroin face stiffer penalty

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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 earlier 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, 45-year-old Samuel Christner, at the dead man's Unity home on Feb. 5, according to state police.
 
“One of the things we've been very vigilant on when we have a drug overdose death is we are looking into apprehending the person who delivered the drug,” said Trooper Steve Limani.
 
They are charged under a recently updated state law that makes it a crime -- third-degree murder -- to provide a drug that results in death. Those convicted face up to 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 Tuesday by council.
 
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 also 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 Sept. 9 before Falcon.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.