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INDEPENDENCE — A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a death caused by a drug overdose and will spend the next eight years in prison.
Daniel Laymond Ferguson, of 340 Grayson Street in Fries, pleaded guilty Friday morning in Grayson County Circuit Court to one count of second-degree murder and one count of distributing a Schedule II drug to a minor.
The charges stemmed from the November 2008 death of Zachary Dale Towler, 17, of 328 Grayson Street in Fries.
A toxicology report from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science indicated that Towler's death was the result of an overdose of a narcotic called Subutex, which is used for the treatment of narcotic addiction.
Earlier this year, Grayson Sheriff Richard Vaughan said the overdose led to a murder charge because the Code of Virginia says that "the killing of one, even accidentally, while in the prosecution of another felonious act is defined as second-degree murder."
The drug charge was a felony, so Vaughan was able to charge Ferguson with second-degree murder.
Grayson Commonwealth's Attorney Douglas Vaught told the court that Ferguson was linked to the death when a friend — who had spent the night with Towler on the night of his death — informed authorities that they had gone to Ferguson's home to get the drug before heading to bed.
Vaught continued to say that Ferguson gave a statement to police indicating that he sold the drug to Towler.
After accepting Ferguson's plea, Circuit Court Judge Brett Geisler asked if Ferguson had anything to say.
"I'd just like to say that I know what I've done, and I'm ready to get past it," he told the court. "I lost a friend... and it was my fault."
Prior to entering his plea, the two parties had reached a plea agreement.
Though Ferguson faced a maximum of 90 years jail time — 40 for the murder charge and 50 for drug charge — and a $100,000 fine, he was sentenced to a total of 38 years and one month, with 30 years of that time suspended.
Ferguson received 22 years and one month for the murder charge (of which 16 months were suspended) and 16 years and a fine of $10,000 for the drug charge (of which 14 months were suspended, along with $8,000 of the fine).
Ferguson will be on active probation upon his release for 10 years and be required to successfully complete a substance abuse program.