Boyfriend of Algonquin woman who overdosed testifies in drug-induced homicide trial

WOODSTOCK – Prosecutors said James Linder was profiting off the addiction of a McHenry County couple when he allegedly sold heroin to the boyfriend of a woman who later died after ingesting the drug.

Linder, 36, of Zion, is on trial this week for the charge of drug-induced homicide. He was arrested in January 2015 after prosecutors said he sold heroin in Zion to Cody N. Hillier, who later ingested the drugs with Danielle Barzyk, 21, in Algonquin.

Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said in opening statements Tuesday that Barzyk and Hillier struggled with something not uncommon to this community: drug addiction.

Hillier, who took the stand Tuesday while in McHenry County Jail custody, said he and Barzyk met at a local rehabilitation facility in July 2014 and began dating. Hillier said the two relapsed in November 2014 and continued daily heroin use thereafter.

He testified that he and Barzyk drove to Zion on Jan. 30, 2015, about noon to buy drugs from Linder, who Hillier said used the alias “Tim.”

After buying the drugs, Hillier said he and Barzyk drove to Deerfield, where she had a job interview. Hillier stayed in the car and ingested some of the heroin, and when Barzyk returned, they drove back to her residence. Hillier said he saw Barzyk ingest the heroin he bought at least three times when they were together.

The couple met up later that evening and just after 1 a.m. Barzyk told Hillier she was having trouble breathing and asked him to take her to the Algonquin Police Department. When police arrived at the scene, they asked Hillier whether she had taken anything, and he said she was having an asthma attack. He later told responding officers and emergency personnel that she had taken Vicodin.

Freese asked Hillier why he initially lied to police about what she had taken and he said, “I didn’t want to get in trouble. … Danielle didn’t want to get in trouble, either.”

Algonquin Police Sgt. James Sowizrol, who responded to the scene that evening, said he attempted to give Barzyk rescue breaths because he believed she was having an asthma attack and she “gasped for air.”

Barzyk was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where she was pronounced dead.

Hillier agreed to work with the North Central Narcotics Task Force and set up another drug purchase with Linder. Hillier, accompanied by officers with the task force, met Linder at a Walmart in Zion to buy an additional 1.5 grams of heroin for $180.

Linder arrived in a black Grand Prix and officers observed what looked to be a narcotics transaction. Officers also gave Hillier “pre-recorded money,” meaning they took note of the serial numbers on each bill so they would be able to tell whether the defendant received the money.

Police conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle Linder was allegedly driving and found the money Hillier gave him, an additional $1,500 and a cellphone that had all text messages between him and Hillier regarding the two drug transactions, Freese said.

Hillier testified that while in jail custody, he was threatened, harassed and eventually bribed by Linder and fellow inmate Cordelle Miller. Hillier previously pleaded guilty in May to unlawful possession and delivery of a controlled substance and was sentenced to probation but was re-arrested in October after violating the terms of his probation.

On Dec. 19, 2016, Hillier sent a letter to Linder’s attorney, Hank Sugden, recanting his previous statements and identification that Linder was the man who sold him the heroin in 2015. Hillier said he wrote the letter, which was untrue, because he felt intimidated and threatened by Linder and Miller.

When Sugden, Linder’s attorney, asked Hillier how long he had been an addict, he said since he was 19 years old. Sugden said being addicted to drugs can cause someone to lie and Hillier agreed. Sugden asked Hillier whether he has ever lied to police, the court, his family, and he said he had.

“I’m not proud of being a dishonest person,” Hillier said.

“How can anyone believe anything you say,” Sugden asked Hillier.

“I don’t know,” Hillier said.

The trial will resume Wednesday morning.

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