WOODSTOCK — A Zion man was sentenced to 28 years in prison Friday for the drug-induced homicide of 21-year-old Algonquin resident Danielle Barzyk.
James F. Linder, 36, was sentenced after jurors found him guilty of the Class X felony in January. Authorities said Linder sold more than a gram of heroin to Barzyk's boyfriend, Cody N. Hillier, on Jan. 30, 2015, in Zion. Hillier and Barzyk returned to Algonquin and used the drugs on at least three occasions. Just after 1 a.m. Barzyk told Hillier she was having trouble breathing and needed medical attention.
The couple went to the Algonquin Police Department, but after realizing the building was closed, Hillier called 911 and police arrived minutes later. Police asked Hillier whether Barzyk had taken anything and he said she was having an asthma attack. He later told police and emergency personnel she had taken Vicodin.
Barzyk was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where she died.
Linder was arrested one day after Barzyk's death when Hillier agreed to work with the North Central Narcotics Task Force and bought more heroin from Linder in a police-controlled sting buy at a Wal-Mart in Zion. Linder was pulled over after the alleged drug deal, and officers found the money Hillier was given to buy the drugs, his wallet, a cellphone and additional cash.
In handing down a sentence, Judge Sharon Prather said she was particularly struck by Linder's extensive and "horrendous" criminal history. Linder has been to prison on six prior occasions — his first time for a violent offense when he was 16 years old — and he was out on parole when he was arrested on the drug-induced homicide charge.
Linder faced at least 15 years in prison on the charge, but could have faced between 30 and 60 years based on prior convictions had Prather decided to apply extended-term sentencing.
"One would think that Mr. Linder would learn something from his six prior trips to the Department of Corrections and conform to the norms of society and live a law abiding life," she said.
Prosecutors described Linder as a violent person who was a danger to the community, citing his long criminal history of violent, weapon and drug offenses.
Assistant State's Attorney Randi Freese said heroin is an epidemic and health crisis in the community and everyday the courtroom is filled with heroin victims.
McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski testified that the No. 1 cause of death of young people in McHenry County and Illinois is no longer car crashes, but overdose deaths. Majewski said young people are 2 1/2 times more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car crash in McHenry County.
From 2012 to 2016 the total number of drug overdose deaths has increased from 31 to 56, Majewski said.
"It's a tragedy for our youth and all of our citizens," she said.
Freese said Danielle Barzyk was a beautiful, young girl who had her whole life ahead of her and "had two very involved parents and heroin still won."
"Heroin took a complete hold on Danielle and her entire family and it never let go," Freese said. "Something's got to change or everyone in this community is going to be able to relate to the Barzyks."
Mark Barzyk, Danielle Barzyk's father, said that over the course of three years he watched his daughter's world completely change because of her addiction to heroin. Mark Barzyk said while he has no personal dislike or any strong feelings toward Linder, he does take issue with what he chooses to do for a living.
"I am sure he is well aware of the level of addiction this drug has… I'm sure he counts on it," he said.
Hank Sugden, Linder's attorney, argued his client should not be considered for any kind of extended-term sentencing because he was a "small-time drug dealer" who got himself into trouble at a young age and things have "snowballed since." Sugden previously filed a motion in 2015 asking that the case be moved out of McHenry County because there were too few African-Americans in the area to be tried by a jury of his peers.
Linder apologized to Barzyk's family, taking some responsibility for Danielle's death, but not all of it.
"I contributed to the young lady's death, but I didn't kill her," Linder said, waving his hands as he spoke. "I participated, but her boyfriend killed her and got probation."
Linder said he was an addict as well, admitting that he smoked crack cocaine and had no one in the courtroom on his behalf because of his actions when he was on drugs.