ELIZABETH – A 23-year-old Martinsville woman was found guilty of contributing to two drug-induced deaths that occurred in Springfield in 2009, Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced today.
On Friday, July 12, Megan Plank was found guilty of one count of distribution of heroin and two counts of strict liability for a drug induced death.
On November 12, 2009, Plank distributed heroin to Sara Malake, 18, and Christopher Coppola, 20, in the Finderne section of Bridgewater. The victims, who were boyfriend and girlfriend, ingested the heroin at Malaker’s home in Springfield, said Assistant Prosecutor Ann Luvera, who prosecuted the case.
On Nov. 13, 2009, the two were found dead in Malaker’s bedroom by Malaker’s mother. The police retrieved Malaker’s cell phone from her bed, where they found a series of text messages between Malaker and the defendant, Megan Plank, said Luvera.
In those messages Plank directed the victims to a house in the Finderne section of Bridgewater where the transaction took place. Although the text messages did not explicitly, refer to the sale of heroin, it was clear that a drug transaction was to take place, said Luvera.
Plank and Coppola had gone to high school and community college together. After a 10 month investigation by Lieutenant Dean Marcantonio from the Union County Homicide Task Force, Plank was arrested on Sept. 29, 2010. During the three week trial, the jury heard testimony from various witnesses relating to the text messages as well as phone calls between Plank and victim, according to Luvera.
The Union County Medical Examiner, Dr. Junaid Shaikh, testified as well as a toxicologist from NMS Labs in Pennsylvania. In addition, Marcantonio took two recorded statements from Plank, both of which were played for the jury. In her first statement,the defendant denied seeing the victims in the months preceding their death.
When initially confronted with the text messages, Plank denied being the sender. After her arrest, she acknowledged meeting with the victims but denied giving them the heroin. She claimed that the meeting was for the purpose of selling marijuana. During the trial, Plank continued to deny that she was the seller of the heroin and claimed the victims’ death could not be definitively attributed to the heroin.
Malaker had a pre-existing asthma condition and Coppola had a small amount of prescription drugs + marijuana in his system. The jury of 11 women and 1 man deliberated for one day before rendering their verdict, said Luvera.
Plank is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 13 and faces between 10 and 20 years on each of the two counts relating to the strict liability for the drug induced deaths of Malaker and Coppola. She will be required to serve 85% of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
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