The Hall of Justice in San Diego. Courtesy District Attorney’s office

A man who sold heroin to a woman at an East County taco shop, leading to her fatal overdose, was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail, after which he will be supervised by probation officers for seven years.

Marc Gressingh, 36, pleaded guilty in June to selling heroin to 31-year-old Rebecca Mercurio in March 2016. The defendant also had a prior conviction for drug sales.

According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, more people are dying each year in San Diego County from accidental overdose or substance abuse intoxication of opioids. Deaths in the county from opioid abuse have roughly doubled in the last 15 years, a trend mirrored nationwide.

“An addiction to prescription drug opioids often leads people to begin abusing heroin, which is cheaper and easier to find,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We’re responding to the opioid addiction crisis that is claiming the very lives of so many in our community and stealing the promise of their future by combating this issue on multiple fronts.”

According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner, the increase in heroin deaths since 2005/2006 has continued, and heroin was the most common drug seen in users between the ages of 20 and 29 over the past five years.

In 46 percent of heroin deaths, a stimulant was also present.

On March 11, 2016, San Diego police officers responded to a reported death at a residence in San Diego and summoned paramedics, who were unable to revive Mercurio.

Based on information that the victim bought the heroin at an East County taco shop, sheriff’s investigators took over the case.

After a lengthy investigation, Detective Jacob Sanchez determined that Gressingh had sold the heroin to the victim the night before.

“Prosecutions like this send the message that when you sell heroin to another human being, you are literally providing them with toxic poison that can slow their breathing to the point of death,” Stephan said.

“We also focus on prevention through education and on providing important programs that work to get defendants who have substance abuse issues help through Collaborative Court programs like Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court and Veterans Court.”

— City News Service

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