A 26-year-old Monmouth County man is facing up to 25 years in prison for his alleged role in the 2013 heroin overdose death of 25-year-old Christopher L. Pesce at the Rumson-based Oxford House, an addiction recovery home.
A Monmouth County grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Michael Renna, of Sylvania Avenue, Avon-by-the-Sea, with one count of first-degree strict liability for drug induced deaths and one count of third-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced in a release.
The strict liability charge carries with it a maximum 20-year sentence in state prision and is subject to provisions of the No Early Release Act, which mandates him, if convicted, to serve 85 percent of the imposed sentence before becoming in eligible for parole. The distribution charge carries with it a sentence of a up to five years, Gramiccioni said.
Renna, who was arrested and charged with the two counts on Aug. 22, 2014, allegedly provided Pesce in Asbury Park with the ultimately fatal dose of heroin that he succumbed to on the night of Oct. 12 at Oxford House according to the prosecutor.
Renna’s $200,000 bail with no 10 percent option, ordered by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Honora O’Brien Kilgallen, J.S.C., was posted on Aug. 25, 2014, three days after the arrest. He remains free on bail, the release said.
Pesce died from an overdose of the heroin allegedly given to him by Renna on Oct. 13, 2013 at about 8:15 p.m., when Rumson police responded to an emergency call at the Oxford House at 61 South Ward Ave. where Pesce had been living.
Police found Pesce dead there. His name was not initially released. The cause of death, determined to be acute heroin toxicity, was confirmed after Rumson police completed an investigation in conjunction with the county Prosecutor’s Office and post-mortem toxicity screenings were performed.
Pesce’s death was followed by another overdose incident not resulting in death in December of 2013, a couple months later.
The overdoses, one resulting in Pesce’s death, had West Park section neighbors riled over the recovery house and what they dubbed at a meeting on the subject its “sneaky” operation in a suburban neighborhood.
Such homes are a permitted use and do not require advance notice of their existence to neighbors.
Lawsuits ensued in the past couple of years — Rumson versus Oxford House and vice versa and have since been settled.
— Elaine Van Develde
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office advises that despite the charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state law.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Christopher J. Decker, Director of the Prosecutor Office’s Major Crimes Bureau. Renna is represented by Mitchell J. Ansell, Esq. and Robert A. Honecker, Jr., Esq., both of Ocean Township.