Accused Dealer Bragged About NJ Teen’s Fatal Overdose, Cops Say
EVESHAM — The man accused of delivering the heroin to a 15-year-old girl who overdosed and died had bragged about getting her addicting, leaving a father heartbroken and a community looking for answers.
At a detention hearing on Wednesday, a judge ruled that Austin F. Cooper, 21, will remain behind bars while he awaits trial for the death of Madison McDonald, according to a Courier-Post report.
A Burlington County prosecutor told the judge that Cooper searched the internet for "I want to get a girl addicted to heroin."
Prosecutors said Cooper brought 10 bags of heroin to Madison's home in the Marlton section. Her family found face down on her bed the day after Christmas. She died two days later at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
After Madison's death, prosecutors said Cooper texted friends that he had "caught a body" — slang for killing someone — and avoided the home he shared with his father in case police tried to arrest him.
The Willingboro man was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree strict liability for drug-induced death, which prosecutors use against dealers who supplied the drugs that killed a customer. He already had been facing third-degree drug charges in connection to this case.
Madison's father, Stephen McDonald, told New Jersey 101.5 he still remembers the day he found his "favorite little baby" passed out in her bed and said he wouldn't wish the experience on anyone. McDonald said he thought it was possible that his daughter and her friends had tried smoking marijuana, but she had reassured him that she hadn't done anything harder.
"She said, 'You know me, dad. I eat well, I'm in great shape. I would never do drugs,'" he said. "I said I hope not because if something would happen to you it would break daddy's heart to never get to see you again in my life."
McDonald said he'll never forget the day his daughter overdosed but said he will always have good memories to remember her by.
"She was a fun-loving little girl. If I had a bad day or whatever, I'd come home and she'd make me smile and laugh and we would joke all the time," he said.
He said Cooper getting his daughter started on heroin "destroyed me." He hopes over time to be able to use his experience in order to talk to schools and parents about the dangers of drugs like heroin.
Police Lt. Joseph Friel said McDonald's message can be a powerful one at a time when the opioid epidemic is growing across the country.
"We hope that the father speaking about his younger daughter's death will encourage other parents to talk with their kids about drugs," he said. "Don't put off having the talk, this poor girl was only 15 years old."