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BENNINGTON — A North Pownal man has pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in the drug overdose death of his girlfriend in December 2016. Two other defendants in the case have already been sentenced.

Richard Muir, 42, pleaded guilty to the felony offense on June 19, nearly two-and-a-half years after he was charged in the death of Kristin Long, 35, of Bennington.

Authorities said Muir had lied to Bennington police about not knowing the dealer of the fentanyl-laced heroin he and Long used the day she died. Investigators later discovered that Muir bought the drugs from Long's sister, Emily Welch, according to a sworn statement by Bennington Det. Sgt. Larry Cole.

Long's cause of death was determined to be intoxication from a mixture of heroin, fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid painkiller. The regulated drug is often mixed with heroin or sold as an alternative, increasing the chance of an overdose. Acetyl fentanyl is an illegally produced relative of fentanyl that is several times more potent.

Welch pleaded guilty in state court to selling a regulated drug that resulted in her sister's death, as well as heroin sale in another case. She was sentenced to serve three to 10 years in prison last year, according to court records.

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Tianna Fronsman, who was accused of selling Welch the heroin her sister used, pleaded guilty to three felonies: selling a regulated drug with death resulting, heroin sale and heroin possession. In 2017, she received a suspended five-to-ten-year sentence, but had to serve two years, court records state.

Muir, who is free from jail on a $10,000 bail, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28 at the Vermont Superior Court in Bennington. He faces maximum penalties of five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

He was originally charged with being an accessory after the fact, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years. Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett is prosecuting the case. Muir is being represented by defense attorney Jonathan Ward.

Muir's charge was amended under a plea agreement with the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office. He initially had been scheduled to go on trial for two days this week.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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