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Drug overdose cases languish in court for three years

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Beverly Burrell, looks back at her family.
Beverly Burrell looks back at her family in a courtroom in September 2017, after being sentenced to 14 years for the overdose deaths of two men in Minneapolis. She will be back in court later this month to resolve charges in two other third-degree murder cases.
Jerry Holt | Star Tribune via AP

Updated: Thursday, June 6 | Posted: Wednesday, June 5

A Maplewood woman convicted in the drug overdose deaths of three men will be back in court later this month to resolve charges in two other third-degree murder cases. 

The cases have been languishing in court for the last three years, which has apparently frustrated some family members of the deceased men.

Spencer Johnson and Nicholas Petrick died within weeks of each other in 2016. Prosecutors say both men bought opioids from Beverly Burrell, who appeared in court briefly on Wednesday. Medical examiners say both men died from heroin and fentanyl toxicity. But those cases have remained unresolved, as the other three cases went forward.

In 2017, Burrell was sentenced to just over 14 years for the third degree murders of Lucas Ronnei and Max Tillitt.

And in 2018, she was convicted by a Sherburne County judge in the death of Dustin Peltier. That judge sentenced Burrell to another eight years.

Family members of Johnson and Petrick were in the courtroom on Wednesday, but didn't talk to reporters afterwards. Colleen Ronnei was also in the courtroom. The death of her son Lucas from a heroin overdose in 2016 was one of the three that sent Burrell to prison.

Ronnei said it's important for the remaining families to have their losses recognized by the court.

"And so those families don't feel like they weren't able to be included in the process and receive the same level of justice that the first three families got," she said.

Burrell is scheduled to return to court June 21. It's possible she will plead guilty then to the remaining two cases. Burrell's release date from prison is in 2031.

Correction (June 6, 2019): In an earlier version of this story, Nicholas Petrick was misidentified.