Batavia man agrees to testify against co-defendants in fatal overdose case

A Batavia man charged in the February 2017 fatal heroin overdose of a Sugar Grove Township woman has agreed to testify against three co-defendants in exchange for a likely six months of boot camp.

Neal R. Crowder, 27, of the 1400 block of Fagan Court, pleaded guilty Friday to unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to Kane County prosecutors and court records.

Kane County Judge John Barsanti accepted the plea, in which Crowder was sentenced to the maximum seven years prison but with the recommendation that he be sent to a six-month boot camp instead.

State prison officials have the final say in the matter.

Crowder and three others were arrested and charged in spring 2017 with drug-induced homicide and other felonies in the death of Ashley M. Mastel, 21, of Sugar Grove Township.

They are accused of providing fentanyl-laced heroin to Mastel on Feb. 20; she was found dead in her home the next day. Fentanyl is an opiod pain medication frequently added to heroin as a cutting agent.

In the plea agreement, all remaining charges against Crowder - except for the drug-induced homicide count - were dismissed. Prosecutors said that charge, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, is still pending and can be reopened if Crowder fails to follow through on his agreement to testify against three others in the case.

Tom St. Jules, who is Crowder's private defense attorney, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Johnny L. Williams, 57, and Eric P. Anthony, 22, both of St. Charles, and Joseph P. Tortorella, 26, of Batavia, also were arrested in Mastel's death and are awaiting trial on charges of drug-induced homicide.

They have each posted bond and are next due in court March 16, Feb. 16 and March 9, respectively.

The Kane County sheriff's office and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigated the case.

Four charged in fatal Sugar Grove heroin overdose

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