Judge limited to sentence for drug overdose death, gives woman one year in prison and nine on house arrest

Becky Campbell • Jan 30, 2020 at 8:52 PM

A Johnson City woman will spend one year in jail for her part in a drug overdose death while the victim’s family will grieve forever.

Darlicia Jordan, 34, was sentenced Thursday after a three-hour hearing with testimony from her, her daughter and a family friend on the defense side and four witnesses for the state — a family friend, a sister to the victim, his aunt and his mother.

Matthew Buckingham, 30, died Nov. 29, 2017, after he injected heroin he obtained from Tasha Williams and Jordan. According to toxicology test results, the heroin also had fentanyl in it.

Jordan pleaded guilty in November to reckless homicide for her part in Buckingham’s death, but agreed to a sentence higher than the court could have imposed because of the level of the crime. Jordan’s attorney, Nikki Himebaugh was able to get the charge reduced — saving her client from a potential 15- to 25-year prison term — to a 10-year sentence. 

Jordan had originally been charged with second-degree murder, which could had sent her to prison for a minimum of 15 years.

In her testimony, Jordan apologized to Buckingham’s family, but during their testimony it was obvious they rejected her attempt. Her part in the incident was going to Williams’ residence to retrieve a gift bag to give to Buckingham that night. Jordan said Williams was out of town and asked her to do the favor.

Jordan said after she saw Buckingham — that night was the first time she’d met him — she believed he was doing drugs and thought the bag could have drugs in it. But because she didn’t know him, she didn’t intervene. Jordan said her encounter with Buckingham lasted about three minutes.

Melissa Smith told the judge her son was a loyal and caring friend and never met a stranger — even in death.

“He was an organ and tissue donor. He saved five lives,” she said through tears. “The pain is indescribable. Life as I knew it ended that day.”

She asked Rice to “send a message” in sentencing Jordan.

At the hearing, which had emotional and compelling testimony for a harsh sentence for Jordan, Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice said she had little choice in the matter given Jordan’s lack of a criminal history and her work history, even if it was sporadic. The most Rice could do was sentence Jordan to one year in prison and nine years on house arrest.

Smith just shook her head in what appeared to be disbelief as she sobbed.

Jordan was taken into custody immediately upon the judge’s ruling.

Williams pleaded guilty in October to reckless homicide and also agreed to a sentence far outside her true sentencing range. Williams, who had no prior criminal convictions, only faced two to eight years in prison, but agreed to a 15-year sentence to avoid trial.

She will be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of the sentence, but there is no guarantee the parole board will grant her release at that time.

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